As a general rule

A quick method of discerning what to do with those agitating, discouraging thoughts:

“As a general rule, you ought to regard as coming from the enemy any thought which agitates you, throws you into perplexity, which diminishes your confidence and narrows up your heart.  The best thing in such cases is just to put the matter that perplexes you out of your mind, saying to yourself, ‘When I have the opportunity I shall ask the solution of this difficult from some priest,’ and then go on in peace as you were before.” (Dom Marmion)

I’m sure Dom Marmion would allow the substitution of “a wise person” for “some priest,” someone who is spiritually mature and whose discernment you trust.

Remember Amy Carmichael’s wonderful advice as well:

“The reason why singing is such a splendid shield against the fiery darts of the devil is that it greatly helps us to forget him, and he cannot endure being forgotten.  He likes us to be occupied with him, what he is doing (our temptations), with his victories (our falls), with anything but our glorious Lord.  So sing.  Never be afraid of singing too much.  We are much more likely to sing too little.”

The best form of mortification

One other wonderful piece of advice to consider as you prepare for Lent:

Blosius, a great Benedictine mystic, says that the best form of mortification is to accept with all our heart, in spite of our repugnance, all that God sends or permits, good and evil, joy and suffering. (Dom Marion)

Worth reading through again, slowly.  This may be the hardest mortification you ever choose.

Spiritual program for a mother

If you are a mother, I hope you will take time to read this letter from Dom Marmion, outlining his advice on the appropriate spiritual focuses for a mother:

Your kind letter gave me so much pleasure because I see you are seeking God with sincerity.  I tell you in all simplicity that I believe God loves you dearly and that the little worries of this life form that portion of the cross of Jesus which is to unite you to Him.  God does not ask a married woman of the world for the austerities and mortifications that may be practiced by those living in the cloister.  But He sends them other trials adapted to their state and which render them so agreeable to his Divine Majesty.

Our Lord asks of you:
1. — To accept daily the sufferings, the duties and the joys that He sends you, as Jesus accepted all that came to Him from His Father.  When St. Peter wanted to turn Him away from His Passion, on account of his great affection for Him, Jesus answered him, “The chalice which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”  There, my daughter, is the answer you ought to give when you seem to be overwhelmed with suffering.
2. — The perfect fulfillment of your duties:
a) Towards God. –Prayer, Mass, Holy Communion, not too many prayers, but great fidelity in saying those which it is a duty to offer to God, above all family prayers.
b) Towards your neighbor.–Towards your husband.  Marriage, says St. Paul, is the image of Christ’s union with the Church, and the Sacrament of marriage give you a continual participation in the union of Jesus and His Church.  Jesus so loved His Church that He died for her, and she, in return loves Him as her God and her Bridegroom.  Thus you should love your husband as representing Christ for you.
Towards your children.  The grace of motherhood has its origin in the Heart of God and He puts it in the mother’s heart in order that she may love and guide her children according to the Divine good pleasure.
c) Towards yourself.–At present no other mortifications are necessary for you than those which God sends you daily.  But you must sanctify them by uniting them to the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
Be joyful, natural and straightforward as you are, and God will bless you.

Distracted prayer

Early last fall I was speaking with my spiritual director about my experience of the prayer for the last long while.  I told him that I felt that all I did was fight distraction after distraction.  He replied by describing Cardinal John Henry Newman’s response when asked how long he had prayed: “About a minute . . . and it took me an hour to get there.”   Don’t you love it?

And from Dom Columba Marmion: “It is above all on days of weariness, sickness, impatience, temptation, spiritual dryness, and trials, curing hours of sometimes terrible anguish which press upon the soul, that holy abandonment is most pleasing to God.”

When we feel weak and incapable

One of my top five books is Dom Marmion’s Union with God, a collection of some of his letters of spiritual direction.

An excerpt:

You must not pay too much attention to the fluctuations which are ever passing over the surface of your soul. Like the sea, it is constantly ruffled, but in its depths it is all God’s. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you an abundance of His gift of fortitude, nothing so honours God as to lean on Him in full confidence, just when we feel weak and incapable, ‘When I am weak, it is then that I am strong . . . I glory in my infirmities that His strength dwell in me.’ May you be filled with Christ’s strength, the spouse is never so pleasing to her beloved as when she bears all her weight on the strong arm of her beloved.

And another:

Abandon yourself blindly into the hands of this Heavenly Father Who loves you better and more than you love yourself.

More to come . . .