Fighting “the black dog”

Sharing this from Tod Worner:

The Vital Necessity of Advent

“Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”

- G.K. Chesterton. 

Dear Jesus, do I need Advent. I just do. Living in the upper Midwest during the melancholic waning days of fall, begrudging the early arrival of snow flurries and enduring the bone-chill that summer had (mockingly) made me forget, I need Advent. You see, I am predisposed to what Winston Churchill once called “the black dog”. The black dog is an ill-defined woefulness that can gnaw at you at unpredictable times for indescribable reasons. Not classically a depression, it is rather a longing for something that is unfulfilled by anything here on earth. If not tilting into a fuller depression, perhaps this is a good thing. C.S. Lewis, after all, once wondered,

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

And that is why I need Advent. Advent, originating from the Latin “Adventus”, means “a coming, an approach, or an arrival”. It is a season of anticipation, of expectation and of reform in preparation for the arrival. But what is it we are anticipating, expecting, and preparing for? Nothing more than the entry of God into History, the Word Made Flesh, the Messiah, the Savior of Mankind. We are awaiting, expectantly and eagerly, the Central Event of Human History. The Incarnation. Nothing less than that. And that is why I need Advent.

You can finish reading over here.

Advent Song

Advent Song

Lady, what songs are bending
The tall grasses of your mind,
What secret music whispers down your veins,
What wax-leaf ponderings, O Virgin Mary,
Waken our little shouts of expectation?

Our thoughts have lumbered down a treeless highway,
Have sputtered their heavy loftiness, have wept
Their protest. Now we hear the distant birdcall
Oh, dimly! but the woods have heard it well.
The stars are singing in their stupefaction,
The giddy little hills are clapping hands.

But Lady, what songs sway
The supple grasses of your thoughts,
What secret music whispers down your veins?

Glorious things are said about this city
Where the small citizen Christ moves in the lanes
Of so-brief arteried comfort; but what songs
Drift through this templed alabaster town?

We see the windows lighted, Virgin Mary,
City of God, by every hymn we raise
With chipped and broken voices, and our feeble
Vision guesses sacred silhouettes.

But when the little Seed fell in the furrow,
The warm and spotless furrow of your heart,
Tell us what pure songs stirred your delicate wonder,
What secret music whispered down your veins.

Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. [late Abbess of the Colettine Poor Clare monastery in Roswell, New Mexico]

Sitting in the darkness

And my final excerpt from Fr. Marc Foley’s book, The Context of Holiness:

Acts of faith are expressed in two ways.  The first is our willingness to jump into the darkness, that is, choosing to trust in God’s guidance as we venture into the unknown.  The second is our willingness to sit in the darkness, which is continuing to do God’s will when our emotional resources are depleted and life seems hollow, meaningless and absurd.  . . .

These are the worst times in our life of faith when viewed from a psychological and emotional perspective.  But from a spiritual vantage point, they are potentially the best of times.  For when we continue to do God’s will without emotional support, our love for God and neighbor grows and is purified.

A great weight off

Another dose of Fr. Marc Foley:

Even though I believe that by the grace of God I am not the man I was thirty-five years ago, for I can honestly say that much emotional healing has taken place in my heart.  Nevertheless, during times of stress, when my old fears and neurotic compulsions well up within me in all their savage intensity, I feel that nothing has changed.  I say to myself, ‘When will I ever be rid of this fear?’

Once I could accept the answer ‘Never’ I felt a great weight taken off my shoulders.  For I was released from the impossible goal of trying to become someone other than myself. ‘Working on yourself’ can be an insidious mask of self-hate for it makes you feel that there is something wrong with you until you are ‘healed.’

I have often told people who come to me for spiritual direction to never make it a goal to conquer their faults.  Simply ask for the grace to resist the temptation at the moment.  Take it for granted that you will always have tendencies toward certain sins and self-destructive behaviors, which will always be opportunities to grow in virtue and rely upon the grace of God.

The battle of your emotions

More from Fr. Marc Foley:

What does it mean to leave childhood?  What does it mean to become an adult?  It means having the strength not to be ruled by one’s emotions or allowing one’s feelings to dictate one’s choices,and possessing the determination to stand upright in the face of an emotional storm. This was the grace given to Thérèse.

Thérèse was not healed of her hypersensitivity.  Rather, she was given the strength to deal with it.  . . .  God did not remove Thérèse from the battle of her emotions but gave her the fortitude to remain in the battle.

. . . . .

Reflect upon your own life . . . What do we suffer in doing God’s will?  Is it not some painful emotion that accompanies our choices?  Is it not fear that makes an act of faith harrowing?  Is it not the sadness of mourning that makes ‘letting go’ difficult?  Is not loneliness or emptiness the price of remaining faithful to one’s vows?  Is not tediousness and boredom the burden of being dutiful to the daily round?

Love and suffering are inseparable.  If we are unwilling to suffer, then we cannot love.”

A blessing

Sr. Dorcee:

Still my wish for you.

Originally posted on Witnesses to Hope:

May you take this poem as a personal blessing to you today:

Jesus’ arm beneath thy head,
Jesus’ love around thee shed,
Jesus’ light to cheer thy way,
Jesus’ ear to hear thee pray,
Jesus’ loving hand to bless
in this weary wilderness.
Jesus first and Jesus last
till earth’s storms are past.
And if aught forgotten be–
may he double it to thee.

~unknown

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The context of holiness

Digging into my 600 page journal last night and I found some gems from Fr. Marc Foley’s book, The Context of Holiness.  I’ll share them over the next few posts.  Hope they encourage you as they do me.

Becoming an adult does not mean that the deep emotional wounds of childhood disappear. Rather, being an adult means  choosing to make courageous decisions in the face of powerful emotions.

———–

When she [Thérèse] was assigned a job [as novice mistress] that she thought was too much for her to handle, she felt overwhelmed, incompetent, unqualified, and inadequate . . .

However, Thérèse does not apologize for her fears.  She does not berate herself for feeling like a child; rather her fears and insecurities are the context within which she places her trust in God.  It is as if Thérèse is saying to all of us: ‘There are many situations in life that trigger the deep-seated fears of childhood.  I have come to see that this is a normal part of daily life.  I have also come to see that our childhood wounds are not obstacles to our spiritual growth but are in some mysterious manner the path on which we find our way back to God.  The deep-seated fears of my life have forced me to abandon my self-sufficiency and to rely upon the grace of God.’

Is it time to sit down for lunch?

Each tiny act is an extraordinary event, in which heaven is given to us, in which we are able to give heaven to others.

It makes no difference what we do, whether we take in hand a broom or a pen.  Whether we speak or keep silent.  Whether we are sewing or holding a meeting, caring for a sick person or tapping away at a typewriter.

Whatever it is, it’s just the outer shell of an amazing inner reality: the soul’s encounter, renewed at each moment, in which, at each moment, the soul grows in grace and becomes ever more beautiful for her God.

Is the doorbell ringing?  Quick, open the door!  It’s God coming to love us.  Is someone asking us to do something?  Here you are!  . . . it’s God coming to love us.  Is it time to sit down for lunch?  Let’s go–it’s God coming to love us!

(Madeleine Delbrêl)