Jesus, help me!

Is it just me, or do temptations increase during Lent?  And what to do with them?  I think we all can be afraid of temptations.  Our Pope Emeritus suggests a simple way to deal with them:

“. . . to a disciple who expressed the desire to discover ‘the causes of the different temptations that had assailed him’, Barsanufius replied: ‘Brother John, do not be afraid of the temptations that arise against you to put you to the test, do not be determined in trying to understand what it is about; rather cry out the name of Jesus: “Jesus, help me!”  And he will hear you because ‘the Lord is near to all who call upon him.’ Do not be discouraged, run with ardor and you will reach your end in Christ Jesus, our Lord!”

And these words of the ancient Father are also valid for us.  In our difficulties, problems, temptations, we must not simply engage in a theoretical reflection from whence do they come? — but must react positively, invoking the Lord, maintaining a living contact with the Lord.  Beyond that, we must cry out the name of Jesus: ‘Jesus, help me!’  ANd we may be sure that he listens to us, as he is near to those who seek him.  Let us not be discouraged; rather let us run with ardor–as this Father says–and we too will reach life, Jesus, the Lord.”  (Benedict XVI)

“Faith is a country of darkness”

I frequently turn to Catherine Doherty’s writings when I am struggling.  This is one of my favorites of hers.  May reading it bring you hope.

Faith is a country of darkness into which we venture because we love and believe in the Beloved, who is beyond all reasoning, all understanding, all comprehension.  And at the same time, paradoxically, is enclosed within us: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Faith must go through this strange dark land, following him whom it loves.

Christ, our Beloved, becomes the door, the way into and through this darkness.  And suddenly our heart knows that if we will pass through the door and walk along that way, we will see the Father.

What does it mean to see the Father?  It means to assuage that hunger that has been put in man’s heart by God himself, the hunger of finally meeting absolute love.  We yearn for it.  All of us do.  We arise and go on a pilgrimage, guided only by faith that we must journey toward the face of perfect Love–because for this we were created, to be one with the Love.

If we embark upon this quest, into the land where we may not be able to hear, may not be able to see, may not be able even to speak, suddenly we will be mysteriously visited.  A hand will touch our ears and they will be opened, not only to the speech of man but to the speech of God.  A hand will touch our eyes and we will see, not only with our eyes, but with the sight of God.  A hand will touch our tongue, and we will speak, not only as men do, but as God speaks, and we will become prophets of the Lord.

True, on the road to the Father we shall fall, for we shall sin.  We may turn away from God, we may leave the Church, we may think that we have left everything.  But faith being a gift of God, it does not desert us; we desert it, but it follows us.  We leave the Church, but the Church–which is part of faith, for it is part of Christs–does not leave us.  We turn away from God, but God never turns away from us.

10 little steps with Mary

Found this excellent article on walking through Lent with Mary:

In the wee hours of the morning, shivering from the cold, damp interior of the darkened Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, I lingered in prayer at the rock of Calvary. Resting my hand on the cold rock where the noble cross of Jesus Christ stood upright on the first Good Friday, I prayed. Oh, how I poured my heart out! I was in a spiritual place of desolation when I arrived on retreat in the Holy Land having just gone through a big upheaval in my life. Doors closed, paths turned, and the future seemed unclear to me. I was searching and completely open, available and docile to the next phase of God’s plan for my life.

Read the rest here.

Is success the point of Lent?

Some surprising thoughts from a gal who is not Catholic, but observing Lent this year:  Ann Voskamp on “Why Failing at Lent–May be Succeeding at Lent?”

I can’t seem to follow through in giving up for Lent.

Which makes me want to just give up Lent.

Which makes me question Who I am following.

Which may precisely be the point of Lent.

You can read the rest here.  (She has some pretty nice freebies on her site as well.)

“As to your Lent . . . I can only tell you my own experience.”

Wonderful Caryll Houselander writes:

As to your Lent . . . I can only tell you my own experience.  A mass of good resolutions, I think, are apt to end up in disappointment and to make one depressed.  Also direct fault-uprooting: it makes one concentrate too much on self, and that can be so depressing.  The only resolution I have ever found that works is: “Whenever I want to think of myself, I will think of God.”  Now, this does not mean, “I will make a long meditation on God,” but just some short sharp answer, so to speak, to my thought of self, in God.  For example:

“I am lonely, misunderstood, etc.”
“The loneliness of Christ at his trial; the misunderstanding even of his closest friends.”
Or:
“I have made a fool of myself.”
“Christ mocked–he felt it; he put the mocking first in foretelling his Passion–‘The Son of Man shall be mocked, etc.’–made a fool of, before all whom he loved.”
Or:
“I can’t go on, unhelped.”
“Christ couldn’t.  He couldn’t carry the cross without help; he was grateful for human sympathy–Mary Magdalene–his words on that occasion–other examples as they suggest themselves–just pictures that flash through the mind.”  This practice becomes a habit, and it is the habit which has saved me from despair! . . .

Different people have different approaches to Christ.  He has become all things–infant, child, man–so that we all can approach him in the way easiest for us.  The best is to use that way to our heart’s content, and not to trouble about any other.

Lenten Grace — The Uses of Sorrow

Originally posted on Barnstorming:

photo by Josh Scholten photo by Josh Scholten

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

The bright sadness of Lent
is a box full of darkness
given to us by someone who loves us.

It takes a lifetime to understand,
if we ever do,
this gift with which we are entrusted
is meant to
hand off to another and another
whom we love just as well.

Opening the box
allows light in
where none was before.
Sorrow shines bright
reaching up
from the deep well
of our loving
and being loved.

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The happiest of beings

Sr. Dorcee:

Friday: from the archives.

Originally posted on Wonder and Beauty:

“I do not know when I have had happier times in my soul, than when I have been sitting at work, with nothing before me but a candle and a white cloth, and hearing no sound but that of my own breath, with God in my soul and heaven in my eye . . . . I rejoice in being exactly what I am,—a creature capable of loving God, and who, as long as God lives, must be happy.  I get up and look for a while out of the window, and gaze at the moon and stars, the work of the Almighty hand.  I think of the grandeur of the universe, and then sit down, and think myself one of the happiest beings in it.”  ~a poor Methodist woman, 18th century

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Striving for a spiritual life

A very common trend I see during Lent is that of folks trying to figure out a spiritual program for Lent–without consulting God on it.  Sometimes God is just asking us to live our lives in a holy way in the day-to-day events in which He has placed us.

There can be so much escapism in our striving for a “spiritual life.”  We often flee from concrete, apparently banal reality that is filled with with God’s presence to an artificial existence that corresponds with our own ideas of piety and holiness but where God is not present. As long as we want to decide for ourselves where we will find God, we need not fear that we shall meet him!  We will meet him only in ourselves, a touched-up version of ourselves.  Genuine spirituality begins when we are prepared to die.  Could there be a quicker way to die than to let God form our lives from moment to moment and continually to consent to his action?  (Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.)

It’s just one cup of tea

The season of Lent is almost upon us, it begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, we are asked to take on three traditional Christian disciplines: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Today I want to share with you a new insight into fasting which I gained recently.

I’ve generally always dreaded the idea of fasting during Lent. It always seemed to me like a test of endurance, and I never thought I had all that much endurance. Typically I would decide to, say, give up biscuits for the whole of Lent. It would last about ten days, I would have a biscuit and Lent would be over for me. And no matter what people would say about ‘beginning again’ it would never feel the same once failure had set in.

Now, I have learned a new approach to fasting, and it has become a much more appealing prospect.

St Therese of Lisieux teaches us that the “Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.” These words made me realise that the way I had been approaching the Lenten fast in the past was wrong. Lent is not a test of endurance. It is not even a test of discipline (even though we gain discipline as a by-product). Lent is a little test of LOVE. It is quality the Lord is interested in – not quantity.

I can describe this new approach to fasting – the little way of fasting – with an example. Here is a fast I recently undertook:

At breakfast time I didn’t have my normal cup of tea. I had a cup of hot water instead. It’s not much of a sacrifice is it? But this is the important part: fasting must always be accompanied by prayer. You may remember from the Gospels that on one occasion Jesus told the disciples that a particular evil spirit could only be driven out by prayer AND fasting. The two must be always occur together.

So while I was having my cup of water, I prayed.

I spoke to the Lord Jesus and told him that I was denying myself this 1 cup of tea as an act of love for him. I was doing this so that I might grow in my love for Him. I prayed for others. I asked Him to grant my intentions, but above all I asked him to help me grow in faith and love of Him.

It didn’t matter that it was only a small sacrifice. That’s not what matters to the Lord. What matters is that the sacrifice is accompanied by prayer and offered with a sincere and open loving heart. Fasting must always be accompanied by prayer, and must be done as an act of love for the Lord.

Perhaps you would prefer to go through Our Lady. While fasting, we can also pray through the intercession of Mary, our blessed Mother. I can tell her I am offering my fast as an act of love for her, and ask her to bring me closer to her son Jesus. We give Mary the title ‘mediatrix of all graces’ so we can of course pray through her intercession.

With this approach, fasting has become a wonderfully joyful act. Rather than a miserable endurance test, it becomes a joyful act of offering a sacrifice for the good of others, the good of the Church and above all the good of my own soul. I can have a smile on my face, knowing that the small sacrifice I have made has had a powerful effect in the spiritual life. Since I started this little way of fasting, I have prayed better and I feel I have drawn closer to Christ.

It’s just 1 cup of tea. A little thing, done with great love.

During Lent, I won’t totally deprive myself of other drinks, because I know I would find that too burdensome. My aim is to give up my first cup of tea each morning. On some days I may give up my second cup of tea too! – a definite sacrifice, but one I can realistically sustain.  And each time I am conscious of foregoing a drink I would like, I will pray. I will offer my sacrifice to the Lord with a joyful heart and a smile on my face.

I will offer my Lenten fasting for your intentions, for the people who read this blog. In particular I will pray that those of you who need to do so will make a good confession in preparation for Easter, because confession is so important.

And if any of you would like me to pray for a particular intention of yours, please contact me through this blog in the comments section below. I’d be happy to offer my fasting on a particular day for your personal intention.

I hope you will find these words about fasting helpful during the coming season of Lent.

Fr Aidan.

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