Our Lord longs for us to become saints. Visions, etc., are not necessary for sanctity. The impression that sanctity belongs only to a very small class is quite a mistaken one. . . . It is a great mistake to think that when Our Lord asks anything, and we don’t give it, He turns away and leaves us.
In order to become a saint, it is not necessary never to make a mistake, never to keep Our Lord waiting. Sanctity is much easier than we suspect. People will say, ‘it is not for the likes of me.”
If people unfortunately won’t believe Our Lord wants their friendship, they tie His hands. “Of course, Our Lord can’t ask that of me” Many would be quite willing if only they could bring themselves to believe Our Lord is asking it of them.
What makes a saint is a very tiny spark of the love of God. It suddenly strikes me that God really loves me, and that, if I don’t do that little thing, it hurts Him.
If you try to serve Him out of love, He puts up with blunders, sulkiness, frailties, etc. There are plenty in the world who’ll work out of love; many will do for another what they won’t do for themselves.
How long it took the saints to become saints! What disappointments they had! Yet every one was persuaded that Our Lord loved them. Never be afraid of desiring the highest graces. Even the higher kinds of prayer – there is no room for vanity – no one need ever know anything at all about it.
The Shepherds at the Crib
Examine the conduct of the shepherds.
They were doing their work; they were exactly where they ought to have been. We shall not be asked if we were exalted or lowly, good-looking or plain, rich or poor. I shall be in congenial temper with God if I am doing the work God has given me to do.
The shepherds’ work meant a certain amount of hardship. They were inured to it, perhaps, but still it meant sacrifice, hardness of life. If our life doesn’t mean this, sprinkle a little of the salt of mortification upon it.
Do I know what my work is, and am I faithful to it? And if hard, do I embrace it willingly?
Some people look for God anywhere but at home, in their everyday clothes and humdrum life. Every work we have to do is God’s. We quite forget, though God is in heaven, He is in my heart and soul, and as much in my kitchen as in my drawing room.
Don’t let us dream our lives away, or wait for some great occasion of sacrifice which may never come. “Oh, if only I had the facilities another person has, what a wonderful person I should be!’ A fallacy.
Your sanctity consists in dealing with your present circumstances. Do those things which are close under your eyes and God will give you more to do. The saints became saints by using the opportunities which others disdain.
“God couldn’t have meant me to do such a work in my circumstances.” We can leave that to God quite safely, and if I allow Him to direct me, all will come right. To be willingly where we ought to be, attracts to us the invitation of Our Lord.
These shepherds were certainly not men of any mark or ability, nor out of the common outwardly. But they were, you may be sure, God-fearing men, striving to love God.
Otherwise they would have been scandalized at being called on to worship the tiny Child in the cold stable in the arms of His Mother. It is much easier to understand that the Magi could recognize Our Lord. But these poor shepherds rose to the great act of faith required of them, because they had already given their hearts to God. They were simple men.
Are we simple? God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. He actually opposes the proud, drives them from Him. If we could see a material barrier round that Crib, we should see how we are prevented from getting nearer Him by -usually- pride. They saw the Divinity which their more learned countrymen could not see, because of their simplicity. The more we advance in the spiritual life the more we become as children.
Let us pray to grow in this simplicity and that desire to see Him which is the prelude to His coming. If we long, He will satisfy our longing. Wherever we are, God will come to us, if He finds us trying to be perfect. Desire Him to come as He has never come before. Offer Him the homage of rejoicing and offer Him your heart, desiring to be rid of your failings.
Love and friendship are the remnants of the earthly paradise. In this vale of tears, when we encounter so many difficulties, to have people you can call friends is such a joy, such a comfort, such a gift. –Dietrich von Hildebrand, Man, Woman, and the Meaning of Love: God’s Plan for Love, Marriage, Intimacy, and the Family http://amzn.to/2zdpZLI (afflink)
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If I place myself between the source of light and what I want to see, I stand in my own light. In the same way I unwittingly interpose myself between God’s light (vouchsafed to me in prayer or at other times) and God Himself, and I mistake my own shadow for the Divine Beauty.
I am unfortunately selfish and mean and unforgiving and dreadfully suspicious, and I cannot believe that the qualities which exist in myself are not also to he found in God. I am judging God by myself; I am reading my own petty thoughts into the Divine Mind.
A moment’s reflection will show us how terrible a mistake this is, how fatal to all worthy conceptions of God and therefore to any noble enthusiasm in His service. I verily believe that this error has done more than any other of our day to chill fervent spirits and to sicken loyal hearts that would otherwise have beaten high with the love of the Master.
We have unconsciously dragged our God down to our own level, made Him in our imagination as petty and as unlovable as we are ourselves, and have then been surprised that we do not feel it easy to burn with devotion to our Father whom we have misunderstood.
If the turn of the phrase be not too familiar, I would lay down that God’s good opinion of us chiefly depends on our good opinion of Him. I do not mean that God is open to flattery or that it can matter to Him in itself what we choose to think of our Creator, but that our behavior towards Him is founded on our thoughts of Him, and noble thoughts beget noble deeds. Intimate thoughts lead to intimacy, and confiding thoughts of God to trustfulness and hope in Him.
God never constrains us. He allures us, but He always leaves us free, indeed He wishes to enlarge our freedom as far as possible, because the more willing is our obedience the more honorable it is to Him and to us: “God loves a cheerful giver,” St Paul says.
There are two persons concerned in our sanctification: God and ourselves, and they must work together. If they do not, or do not work harmoniously, no great result can be achieved.
There can never be any fault on God’s side: if things go amiss we are always to blame. For instance, God has a plan by which I am in course of time to be fitted to play an important part in the walk of life in which His Providence has placed me. But if I refuse to fall in with this design and am bent instead on a little scheme of my own, no real good comes of either, for neither can succeed. God will not overbear my opposition, and, naturally, I cannot overcome His.
Our Father in Heaven loves us most tenderly and desires to do us all manner of good. All that God wants of us, all that He asks of us and that He must ask from the very nature of the case, is that we will not thwart Him, that we will let Him do His own work in His own way.
But what do we really know about the Eternal God? How can we gauge His feelings? How can we make conjectures about His Mind?
We are afraid to leave ourselves in the hands of the Heavenly Titan if only because He is so great, infinitely greater than we. Not only does He tower to the clouds, and, if we are to speak of Him in material terms, immeasurably beyond.
We handle a butterfly carefully lest we bruise its wings. How can God touch us ever so slightly, ever so delicately, and not grind us to powder?
That is why He stoops so low to our feebleness and takes us up so tenderly for fear of crushing us, and speaks to us not with His voice of thunder (Apoc. vi. x) lest He deafen us, but as it were of a gentle wind. But, do as we will, our poor restless hearts flutter when we think Him near, and we can understand how the Israelites could have said to Moses: “Speak thou to us and we will hear: let not the Lord speak to us lest we die. We look out with our human eyes, which cannot see very far or very clear, into the counsel of God, and is it strange that our image of it is imperfect and distorted, belittled down to our own littleness, narrowed down to our own narrowness of soul?”
We are not blameworthy in this, we cannot raise ourselves above ourselves, nor does God require us to do so. Our help is not in ourselves, but in God. His complaint against us is that we will not accept His proffered aid.
He will lift us up from the dunghill and place us with princes, if we do not obstinately plant our feet on the earth and refuse to move; He will strengthen our eyes to see if we do not keep them firmly closed; if we will open our mouths He will gladly fill them. We shall know by experience that the Lord our God is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to forgive of the evil, if only we give Him a trial. In truth the decision lies not with Him but with us.
In our spiritual concerns even more than in our worldly ones “nothing ventured” means “nothing have.” God has done so much for us – can we do nothing for Him?
Can we not trust His word, and abandon ourselves to God’s guidance? Shall we not be safe in His Everlasting Arms, and are we not to hope in the shadow of His wings? (Ps. lvi. 2).
The Morning Mass
Before convincing yourself that you are out of favor with God and that He is punishing you by darkness, why not make some obvious experiments to find out whether it is not you yourself who are standing in your own light?
You complain that your soul is out of sorts. Perhaps your body, your mind, is out of sorts as well, and it is the soul which is suffering from its contact with the body, and not the other way round.
You have passed a bad night from whatever cause and have hurried some distance to attend your daily Mass; you arrive hot and tired, and cannot fix your mind on the sacred rite; you go up almost mechanically to the altar rails after the Domine, non sum dignus, and do not make a cold Thanksgiving simply because you do not make a Thanksgiving at all.
You are in a dream, or only half-awake. When you return to your home and throw your mind back upon the morning, your time in church seems to have been one long distraction. This surely spells tepidity, if tepidity there be.
Not a bit of it! It spells bodily discomfort, and bodily weakness, either passing or constitutional. It has nothing to do with the will, the set purpose of the soul to which God alone attends. If that purpose holds firm, our thoughts may wander where they list, they cannot withdraw us from God; the wind may blow about our hair or necktie or coat, but we shall reach our journey’s end in spite of it if we keep on our way.
And we do keep on our way if from beginning to end we have in view one aim only-to please God, to benefit our soul. Fits of inattention, which indeed are hardly conscious and are not wholly wilful, which amidst the stir and movement of a body of people are almost inevitable, do not seriously interfere with our master-thought.
We have come to pay homage to our God at the cost of no little inconvenience to ourselves, and He gladly welcomes us, not as seraphs, but as poor human creatures, men and women with bodies of clay, with no wings of our own to lift us above the earth whence we have sprung and whither we shall return.
Is it likely, is it conceivable, that at such moments as these our Father who is in Heaven, but also in every part of the earth, should be prying to discover whether and how far our imaginations may have strayed from Him, although He knows that He possesses our hearts?
God in the center of your heart knows that you want to serve Him, your distractions do not distract Him, He is nearer to you than they, and He understands that they are no part of your real self. They are the offspring of that mortal body which by His own permission weighs down the soul. He is content with your goodwill, and if He is satisfied why are not you?
In your living room and bedrooms, you should have at least one symbol of your faith–a statue of the Savior and the Blessed Mother, a crucifix, pictures which bring to mind events in the life of Our Lord. -Rev. George Kelly, 1950’s
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Let us examine our own experience of God’s dealings with us in the past. We find bad habits of temper or uncharitableness or worse things installed within us. Turn back upon them the lamp of memory steadily, widely, so as to bring into view all attendant circumstances and light up God’s admonitions and inspirations as well as our own perversity.
Try to recollect how often the voice of conscience has striven to make itself heard, in gentle whispers first of all and then in loud remonstrance or remorse, until quelled at last it has seemed to die in sobs or in murmurs far away.
How many fires of noble purpose have been lit in our souls by stirring words or great examples, or suddenly, in the strangest fashion in most unexpected places or at most unlikely times by the Holy Spirit, who alone can touch the inmost heart, and afterwards have burnt low and then to ashes because you would take no pains to feed them!
St Paul says he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. We indeed have no claim to such a wonder as wrought his conversion, but I believe that glimpses of the Unseen, and high impulses and yearnings for better things, not the work of imagination but of the God “in whom we live and move and have our being”, are not so uncommon as is often fancied in these days of ours, perhaps because there are so many lying spirits abroad just now trying to deceive us.
The Lord is not a hard man, but in the words of the prophet Joel, “gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil”. Believe Him to be gentle, kind, generous, and compassionate beyond the tenderness of the most devoted mother, and you will find your anticipations fall infinitely short of the truth.
The one thing that He cannot bear is that you should mistrust His love.
My Day’s Journey
In what thoughts can I find inspiration and comfort at the beginning of each day? In God with us and therefore we with God. My day’s march has been carefully mapped out for me, “before Abraham was made”, in the Divine counsels, its windings allowed for, the ambushes of my enemies forestalled.
I may be quite assured against surprises or superior force, if only I leave myself unhesitatingly in the hands of God. And then what a fine thing it is, enough to stir one’s pulses at a suitable time and place, but true even when one is not in an enthusiastic mood, to know that the feeblest of us has a bit to do, a work to accomplish, under a commission, not signed by earthly emperor or king, but from the Sovereign of Heaven itself!
Further, every weary pace I count, if it so be that the way is long or tedious, is taken under the eyes of Him for whose sake I have begun the march and who will at its end give me a rich reward.
I can make for myself a Friend who will accompany me through my day, step by step, who can and will, if I do not fail Him, always guide me, always uphold me, in whom I can trust unreservedly, and who is so generous that while He has no need of me and I have every need of Him, He actually regards my leaning upon Him as a favor done by me to Him and is most anxious to reward me for obeying what is not only my duty but the dictates of my own interest and advantage.
To halt for a few seconds or minutes clear the head. Why should not the thoughts during my day’s work be only to rest in the thoughts of God, His goodness, our need of His assistance, or our fervent wishes for the welfare of those dear to us, and therefore our supplications for them to the throne of grace, be suitable at such times?
No painful effort, no strain would be needed or desirable. If after a little practice we were to find the attempt a strain, would not this alone prove to us how much we have yet to learn about the proper method of intercourse with God – how stiff and formal, inelastic and cold our own way is, so unlike the conversation of a child with his Father and therefore so unlike the model of prayer taught us by Our Lord Himself.
God is always at our elbow, God is always in our heart, God encompasses us on every side. He reads all our thoughts, He intimately knows every aspiration, every fear, every hope of our soul – He understands us without any need of our explanation, He can supply the answer to the problems which perplex ourselves.
Why do we not consult Him more, open our hearts to His love, lean on Him in our weakness, implore His succor in our wants? He has not shrunk from abasing Himself to earth in order to share my human toils and troubles and trials; and shall I refuse His Company, as far as I can, and deny my confidences and reject His Friendship?
If He loves to be with me, my answer must be, that I, above all, desire to love to be with Him.
“Lord, You know my weakness; every morning I make a resolution to practice humility, and every evening I acknowledge that I still have many failures. I am tempted to be discouraged by this, but I know that discouragement also has its source in pride. That is why I prefer to put my trust in You alone, O my God. Since You are all-powerful, deign to create in my soul the virtue for which I long”. – St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Lent teaches us to love God and our neighbor more than our selves… to love our souls more than our bodies… to love our crosses. In a word, Lent helps us put charity in order and with charity… our wills… our hearts are perfected and made ready to reach the summit of the climb… Calvary.