Thursday, August 04, 2011

Prayer is good...



Suffering is better. - Mother Mary Electa of Christ, OCD
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I read that quote early on in my conversion and sometimes - not always - I think of it during those times when I find it difficult to pray, or recollect myself - even at Mass when I fall prey to so many distractions and petty annoyances.  Little Therese of Lisieux understood that as well, while in choir during mental prayer the rattling of an old nun's dentures disturbed the saint's peace.  Therese offered the annoyance as a little sacrifice of praise.  One sees in this how 'suffering' becomes a prayer, and therefore a good. 
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I'm very interested in modern saints, the closer to our age they lived, the better, since they show us how to live the Gospel amidst great difficulties and opposition.  I was attracted to the blind St. Matrona for that very reason.  She lived through the revolution and under the atheistic regime of the Soviet Union until her death in 1954.  She remained faithful, even though some of the priests and hierarchy may have been agents of the Communist government - or at least cooperators.  Her story is amazing.
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Likewise, the life of Fr. Walter Ciszek is amazing, a fine example of the spirituality of complete abandonment to Divine Providence.  His experience in Soviet prisons and camps is a wonderful example of living one's faith amidst suffering, tribulation, persecution and uncertainty. 
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Humility and the will of God.
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I've made such a long introduction here just to share a couple of passages from Ciszek's story I found edifying.  Maybe you will too. 
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"This tendency to set acceptable conditions on God, to seek unconsciously to make his will for us coincide with our desires, is a very human trait.  And the more important the situation is, the more totally committed to it or the more completely our future depends upon it, then the easier it becomes for us to blind ourselves into thinking that what we want is surely what God must want.  We can see one solution only and naturally we assume that God will help us reach it.
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It is an awful thing this dross of self that spoils even the best things we do out of the supposedly highest motives.  'Like gold refined in the furnace he tried them,' says the Book of Wisdom about the souls of the just.  Somehow, by the trials and tribulations of this life, our souls must be purified of this dross of self if we are to become ultimately acceptable to God.  For each of us the trials will come in different ways and at different times... -but we are created to do God's will and not our own, to make our wills conform to his and not vice versa...  In large tests and in small therefore, God must sometimes allow us to act on our own so we can learn humility, so we can learn the truth of our total dependence upon him, so we can learn all of our actions are sustained by his grace, and that without him we can do nothing - not even make our own mistakes.
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And the greatest grace God can give such a man is to send him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers - and then sustain him with his grace so he may endure to the end and be saved." - He Leadeth Me, The Interrogations.  
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Art:  St. Symeon Stylite

8 comments:

  1. I haven't read Fr. Ciszek's story, but I was wondering if he speaks about how to know God's will in the 'positive' sense, particularly the question of vocation or making big choices. I can understand submission to Providence for this trials we experience that are not of our choosing. He speaks of being cautious about self-deception, but it doesn't answer the question then of how we can know what God in fact does desire.

    I'm not sure about this one, again, but I find this omission very frustrating in many spiritual writings, solid as they may otherwise be.

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  2. Anonymous4:28 PM

    Terry,
    Posts such as these are one of the main reasons I read you blog so often. A couple of the recent posts received some uncharitable comments towards traditional Catholics. I am a traditionalist, and at times it is rather offensive. I wish fellow Catholics would realize that our faith is deeper than brocade chasubles and lace mantillas. These are both great, but many of us go deeper than that. I suppose what I am getting at is despite all that negativity, you should know that at least one traditional Catholic reads your posts for another reason. You offer some great insight as well as introductions to some amazing saints and modern men and women of faith, like Fr.Cisek. Thanks Terry.
    Andrew

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  3. Terry - I'm feeling drawn more and more to the modern-day saints as well. Two of my favorite books are Story of a Soul and St Faustina's diary. They speak so much of uniting our sufferings with Christ, and making reparation for sin. It's what's needed in our world, more now than ever.

    I'll keep you in prayer this weekend at Mass.

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  4. My husband has been telling everyone who will listen about Fr. Ciszek for about three years now. Last year we actually met and became friends with some distant relatives of Fr. Ciszek. His story is absolutely amazing.

    I think it can be much easier to relate to saints who have more in common with us, and the era in which we live has a lot to do with that. When I was looking for a First Communion present for my nephew, I considered getting a book about the saint he is named for (St. James) but settled on a book about Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, hoping that Frassati's youth, activeness, relatively recent life would help my nephew relate to him better as a model. The sense of place might help too, since Frassati and my nephew's mother are both from Turin, and my nephew has been to Turin several times.

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  5. Dear Andrew - I apologize for any offense to Traditionalists - I also favor a more traditional liturgy and Catholicism - even the OF can be celebrated in Latin and ad orientum. I value that. I love the readings in English however.

    God bless you.

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  6. Jane - I pray Pier giorgio will influence your nephew's life.

    Patrick - it seems to be your cross that Our Lord leaves you in such obscurity.

    Larry, Therese is for you. Thanks for the prayer too.

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  7. Anonymous9:09 PM

    Dear Terry,
    No need to apologize. I have gathered from folloewing your blog that you prefer reverence and respect tradition. It was mostly other comments that offended me so much. Rather than enter those discussions, I thought it would be better to focus on the many excellent posts you share with us. Thank you,
    Andrew

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  8. I apologize, Andrew for things I said that I know were offensive. I know others were hurt. I am ordinarily fairly patient but I failed, quite obviously, in the way in which I expressed my frustration. I just lost my mind over the state of our Churches. Please forgive me. No, I am NOT starting up! :) I am still very far from humility...

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