Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent is other people...

There are many people who spend all their time at their prayers and other religious exercises and mortify themselves by long fasts and so on. But if anyone says as much as a word that implies a reflection on their self-esteem or takes something from them, they are immediately up in arms and annoyed. These people are not really poor in spirit. A person is really poor in spirit when he hates himself and loves those who strike him in the face. (cf. Matthew 5:39). - Saint Francis of Assisi, The Admonitions


  1. I'm saying this half in jest because I think I understand St Francis to mean that we need to man up when our "wite pwide" gets hurt, but does it follow:

    That a young man or woman who is bullied and spit should be told to suck it up, that the things the other kids say are probably true, and that they probably deserve it in punishment for their sins and spiritual imperfections?

    That a wife who suffers physical and emotional abuse should do the same, and that the "real Christian" thing to do is to be a hero, since that is what the saints did, and to suffer the abuse in prayer is required, or that if the emotional abuse is too intense, that such is that woman's failure as a Christian?

    I have especially heard tge latter among some "truly true Catholic" types, but is this what Christ expects?

    I've even heard of some saints who would never compliment their children, or allow them to be complimented. Is that te right way?

    And can't our perceived humility be prideful itself at times - i.e. a woman who does nothing about her abusive husband because she thinks she is being St Monica may be doing more spiritual harm to herself, her husband, and her children.

  2. That should say "wittle pwide", btw.

    Anyway, one thing I struggle with with the absolute humility of the saints is this:

    Is it evil or a sign of spiritual weakness that I strongly, strongly desire a wife and to have a family?
    That I desire the physical, emotional, and complementary consolation that comes with that?

    Of course I can say "only if it the will of God", bur I'm not going to pretend, like lots of internet Catholics, thy my desires spring from a love of God - more likely they come from the ordinary and natural sources of human desire. But is that evil? Should I be spendin Lent trying to overcome tge desire for such "trifles"?

    What about other little desires we all have - to trail to a certain place, see a sports team win, see a certain movie, read a book that sounds good, play a game, etc. Are these nothing but diversions that we should grind under our heels? Obviously they do not arise from pure love of God, though we do not want to enjoy things outside of his will.

    Buy anyone who is reading this and thinks all their desires come from love of God alone is deluded and possibly full of pride.

    But this is what I mean when I always say that I think to really love God and be purified is to become a fideistic Puritan who hate the world and eschews any and all desires except the desire for heaven. I feel that anything I like must either be sinful or due to spiritual retardation. And why, for example, get married if I am "supposed to" overcome my desires anyway? Shouldn't I try to remain "untainted" by "base desires"?

    Why hope and pray for a good job and financial stability for me or others? Doesnt God want me to prefer utter destitution? Why try to avoid any suffering? Doesn't God want us to want to suffer always?

    I'm so clueless.

  3. Mercury, I know you're probably just thinking out loud & not asking for comment, but I'll just offer that I don't think you're crazy. Humility is not doormat-hood.

  4. doughboy, I am interested in comments. Thank you.

  5. God wants us to endure the suffering that we have. He wants us to trust in Him absolutely so we merely ask for His help, trusting that He knows best for us.

  6. BTW, I'm giving up sanity for Lent.

  7. Mercury,

    With all due reverence for the very real pain that I know is part of the struggle you're having, my thoughts:

    In addition to ongoing spiritual direction, I think you just need to make strides towards believing in God's love for you personally - an ongoing encounter with the living God (perhaps in Eucharistic Adoration?) will do more to heal neurotic guilt than all self-contemplation or theologizing about states of life, licit pleasures, the origin of your desires, etc. in the abstract.

    Instead of asking those on Abbey Roads to untangle the riddles of your heart, why don't you bring your questions and confusion to God, very honestly and plainly, and continue to pursue Him as your heart leads you. Whatever it is that is weighing on you is where to focus your attention as the substance of your prayer and colloquy with God.

  8. Mercury: Patrick's advice here seems very wise to me, to go right to God for help "to untangle the riddles of your heart..."

    You can also go to Mary, Undoer of Knots.
    [For info/encouragement, try and novena prayers at]

    In the meantime, I'd lay odds that lots of us are praying for you, 'cuz Terry's readers sort of lock spiritual elbows together in the struggle for holiness.

  9. Re: Mary, Undoer of Knots, I only just found the novena this morning and will be making it myself, BUT you don't need a big, long formal prayer. I've gone to Mary and dropped plenty of tangles in her lap with no more than "I'm not getting anywhere on this. I've got it all messed up! Help!"

  10. Thanks everyone.

    Patrick, a big problem is "hearing" God's voice as opposed to the voices in my own head - how do I ever know the difference?

    I will bring a question before God, and almost always think that the most difficult answer, the harshest standard that comes to mind, is what he means to tell me, and that anything easier is just me letting myself off.

    It's really easier to just not pray at all. But that's not a good idea, either.

    Thanks for your prayers, and sorry to unload here.

  11. Mercury,

    It's possible that a wise and experienced spiritual director could be helpful in assisting you to make sense of the "voices," though I've found that some SD's are better with more pointed questions of discernment than others.

    However, individually, one of the most helpful things we can do, before even considering a more precise discernment of the "voices" in play is to limit such "voices" in the very first place. We are constantly bombarded with noise and distraction and it can be difficult to truly live an interior life. Perhaps making an extended retreat (if you could) would be helpful in that regard.

    Beyond that, I would suggest (following St. Ignatius) that it is those affective movements of your heart as it relates to spiritual matters - and the interpretation of them, more specifically - that is a good way to discern God's voice apart from all the others, including your own.

    The most helpful resource I've found in book format for this is Fr. Tim Gallagher's book called Discernment of Spirits:

    He has other books on this type of discernment which are also helpful, such as "Discerning the Will of God".

    Fr. Tim has a show on EWTN currently called "Living the Discerning Life" wherein he covers the same basic points he makes in his book:

    You could also listen to a series of 16 podcasts wherein Fr. Tim discusses the same principles for discernment here:

    Discernment is a discipline that takes time and focus, it's like an artform that we continually grow in, but growth in discernment is rewarding and very practical for understand how God is at work in our lives.

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  13. Patrick, I will check all that out. Thank you, my friend.


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