If You Thirst, Drink

St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) was one of t...

If you are thirsty, then drink. “If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.” (John 7:37).

It is common sense and yet we wrestle with demons within ourselves and find no peace. We all have many decisions in life that require some internal search to enable us to choose wisely: careers, friends, ideologies, political beliefs and such. However, the vocational struggle is the most soul wrenching of all. To live a married life, a single life, a life alone, a life in community, a life for God Alone are the toughest on the mind, heart and soul: for they are the essence of how we should live for the rest of our lives. They are the game changing decisions. Careers, friends, ideologies and the like are all decisions that may mutate and change as we come to see our lives differently and we grow in knowledge but the vocational decisions are deep and lasting. They are reminiscent of our choice to choose God and act upon the gift of faith that God pours into our earthen vessels. If we refuse to act by exercising our gift of free will, then our call to faith will seep from us slowly causing us to wither and live our lives in accordance to the ways of the world rather than the divine call to holiness.

If you are weary, then rest. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee…” __ St. Augustine

Were my children wrestling with a decision concerning the spiritual life or the worldly life I would hope that they might have help from a Spiritual Director who knows the deepest desires of their souls and has examined their character for some appropriate amount of time. I would be much too emotionally invested and not objective enough in my evaluation. After all, it is not my decision. It is between God and the soul He calls and, God willing, a Spiritual Director who can advise and console the deep gut wrenching struggle taking place in the seeker’s soul.

That being said, I do however think that there is some wisdom in answering a call from Christ when it causes a soul a great deal of pain in evaluating. I say this because of the following; the evil spirits do all they can to dissuade souls from entering into a decision of living a life for God Alone. If you are thirsty, drink. If you are weary, rest. Christ is there to quench our thirsts and to give us rest. It is abandonment to divine providence.

I know a woman who had become a sister in a convent in France when she was much younger. It was all she ever wanted to be. However, she got sick and the order sent her home. Ever since, she has lived her life according to the rules of her old order, as sort of a hermit or consecrated virgin. She had not envisioned anything like this but God must have known that it suited her soul better to be alone rather than live in community. We must accept God’s decision once we put the decision on His shoulders.

Therefore, she did not fight and wrestle with the call to be a religious and live her life for God Alone. This woman made the plunge without any reserve. So after her dismissal, her health recovered and she now lives a life that suits her. She is a contemplative in her prayer life and subsists on very little money which I think was derived from her family; for much of her life is hidden even though I know her well. She is a type of ‘desert prophet’ of the ancient Church living in the midst of people who don’t really see her or know who she is. They would never know who she truly is by simply looking at her.

So in my simple way of thinking, it may be better perhaps to let go of the demons one is wrestling with and put the onus on Christ’s shoulders by choosing to let Him lead you to your vocation. Why else would you be wrestling if He had not put the thought in your heart and mind to begin with? Once you let go of the decision, you can step either to the left or right as you think is right. If it is wrong, then God will eventually put it right. I don’t think he would leave a soul, who gave themselves over to Him completely, to suffer in a vocation to which they did not truly belong.

I’m no spiritual director and only speak from my own knowledge: mostly from books and my dear friend, the sister in hiding. There are plenty of retreats to ponder a religious vocation that are offered in most dioceses. But, in the end, everyone must make their vocational decisions themselves, hopefully through prayer and deep meditation. I only wish it weren’t so painful for those poor souls who wrestle with these problems and also for their friends and families to witness their pain as well. But God is the Physician of Souls and we need trust that He will get them through it.

Pray for those who are considering a religious vocation as there are many demons that vex the mind and heart of these poor souls during the time of their discernment.

One Lovely Blog Award

Being new to this whole thing, I had no idea that simply being nominated entitled me to display that picture on my website. I thank Terry of 8 Kids and a Business for the nomination and my very first award. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now to fulfill the criteria of the award (see comment below):

1. I’m 65 years old.

2. I’m recently retired.

3. I have 2 children, 1 son and 1 daughter, neither of which are married and are doing fine in their fields: Dr. in Pharmacy and owner of a Beauty Salon.

4. I’ve been married to the same woman for 34 years come the Feast of St. Padre Pio. She is the DRE and the Pastoral Associate for a large church and has her MTS (Masters in Theological Studies) from Ave Maria University. I hope to get her to write a few posts for my blog in time.

5. I came into the Catholic Church 20 years ago after studying with a fine old priest who has now passed on to his final reward. Once retired he said Mass in his home in Latin for both myself and my wife on a daily basis.

6. He and his best friend ,a Monsignor became, my best friends and my mentors in the faith until their passing. Both were very traditional and I helped the Monsignor write a book that he always wanted to write on the Lamb of God Theme in the Bible. He loved to hand out the small book to people he met right up until he was institutionalized for the onset of Alzheimer’s.

7. A priest who had found his vocation when he was in his 50’s at a retreat given by Fr. Benedict Groeschel (there was a special mystical happening that sealed the deal) became my first and only Spiritual Director though he has also now passed due to a long illness.

So I am grateful for the good,orthodox and very traditional priests who helped form me and I miss their company and good advice that made my journey easy in the first years though I sorely miss their guidance. I may write a bit more about them in future posts.

I have been blogging for such a short time my picks for other nominations will have to be short. But for now, here they are:

1. Keep Life Legal

2. My Hope Box

3. Public Catholic

4. The Reluctant Road to Rome

I love these blogs and hope you will too.

Adherence to a Standard

The basis for all spirituality is adherence to a standard. In the case of Catholic Spirituality the standard is, of course, the definitive teachings of the Roman Catholic Church; including Her moral standard, as well as Her practices.

To borrow one of the late Fulton Sheen’s illustrations, let’s imagine ourselves sitting at a piano.

English: Pianist Mark Eisenman

When we strike any key on the instrument no one can say that we have hit a wrong note. However, in the context of playing a particular piece of music, many wrong notes are possible. The music to be played is a standard that must be followed precisely if we are to receive the applause that follows a successful rendition at a concert.

Our spiritual lives are very much like this. Our saints are like the virtuosos who garner much admiration after a difficult musical performance. We do not see or hear the mistakes previously made during practice nor are we made aware of the depth of the trials that these persons overcame in order to achieve their success. But rest assured that a struggle was a necessary prelude to all that they achieved.

The piano player made mistakes in practicing and worked them out. If they were beyond his ability to recognize and correct, he sought out a maestro or teacher who could give them musical exercises to overcome their shortfalls. But never did they decide to rewrite the score themselves in order that they might more easily play the piece or because they disagreed with some section of the musical piece. They adhered completely to the standard.

Likewise, a Catholic soul who desires to lead a spiritual life, who wishes to attempt Christ’s lofty goal to “be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), must practice holiness like a virtuoso practices his instrument. When he stumbles and falls, he returns to his Maestro (the Church) for correction. It is through this never ending and meticulous process of failure, confession, absolution, and spiritual direction that the soul is purified and our Catholic Spirituality made sound. We don’t rely solely on our own abilities nor do we re-write the teachings of the Church to aid us in our journey. For then we have only substituted our private standard for that of the Church and our spirituality becomes as flawed as the musician who ‘does his own thing’ without regard to the music that he has been asked to play. Just as such a musician will not long be a member of an orchestra, so too those who create their own standards cannot long remain members of the Divine Orchestra the Holy Catholic Church unless one fully accepts the Divine Music and at least attempts to play the performance according to Her Standard.

The first step to a healthy spirituality then is the desire to play in the Heavenly Orchestra and to humbly submit to play only those notes that are written. The next step is to practice according to the rules those things that are difficult and to seek help in correcting those things with which we constantly have problems. Once the soul has begun to faithfully apply himself to this humble obedience (this training of the will) and has sought help through prayer, countless days of practice (making virtues habitual,  and through the utilization of appointed teachers within the Church, much progress in the Spiritual Life is assured.

In music one studies the theory of music, seeks help and listens to others who play well, while in Spirituality the soul studies the teachings, the moral laws and precepts, prays, practices the virtues, and acquaints themselves with the great saints in order that he might acquire their abilities which are not yet possessed in full. Imperfections and failures are certain along the way but with these basics one can proceed safely without danger to ones immortal soul. “For what will it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Remember that sloth or laxity is a capital sin that we must always be on guard to fight. Zeal for the Faith and zeal for Christ comes no other way: it requires spiritual exercise and slow, hard work.