Keep up good courage. Evil thoughts have come? Then let them come and let them go. Be at peace; think no more about it, but turn your heart straight to God. Make no parley with your temptation, but just let it alone. By debating about it in your mind, you shall suffer more misery than the demon itself has caused you. All this trouble comes from excessive despondency, which may end by his suggesting despair, and saying: Everything you do is vain and useless–you are lost forever.
The thing to do in such a case is to cast “all care upon God” and rest in him. Turn to the eternal God with unshaken trust in his goodness and mercy. Do as mariners do when threatened with shipwreck -cast your anchor deep down to the bottom of God’s love and grace. Place your confidence firmly in God our Lord. If it comes even to the end of life, and a man in deep distress shall but anchor all his hopes in God and die in that mind, it is truly a happy and a holy death.
Children, be well assured that a really godly man must dwell in the practice of divine hope just as much as in any other of the divine virtues; and that is a great help to him when at last he comes to meet death. But this must not be a false and deceitful confidence in God, trusting in which a man presumes to lead a sinful life; for whosoever trusts in God and on the strength of that lives wickedly, sins against the Holy Spirit. The confidence in God that I mean springs from the depths of true humility and love. It is based on consciousness of one’s helplessness; it is a most reasonable recognition of the need of God’s help; it is part of a true and full and joyful conversion to God; for whosoever gives himself up to God loves and trusts God sincerely.
Some thoughts from Catherine Doherty on fear:
When I was little, my father used to say that, if you were a real Christian, you would never be afraid of anything of anyone. For were you not, if you were in the state of grace, the temple of the Holy Trinity? And wasn’t the Blessed Mother there? For where the Trinity was, there Our Lady of the Trinity was sure to be. And naturally your patron saint would be within you too, as would your angel guardian. Furthermore, as a Christian you had the right and the duty, when in danger or need, to call on all the heavenly spirits for help, to call on anyone or everyone in the Church Triumphant which is all the people of God in heaven. So, living, walking, breathing in such a glorious company, how could you be afraid of anything but sin? Sin alone has the power to bring real death. It has to be feared with a great fear, but nothing else.
You shouldn’t fear illness or even death –both are precious gifts of the Lord! Sickness can make you into his likeness, even as all pain and sorrow does, and bring deep spiritual peace and understanding that cannot be reached any other way. And death? Death is Christ calling your soul for an eternal rendezvous of love. Oh, the joy of at long last being home, in the arms of the beloved!
[A repost from the past]
This is the day when everything is silent. We can go about the day not giving much of a thought to it–just seeing it as the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Yet monumental things were happening in the spiritual realm. Christ descended to hell to set captives free.
This still has meaning for us. So often we think nothing is happening in our own spiritual lives, yet God is about monumental things. Have hope in the Unseen.
Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)
And for those of you who feel that you are living “in darkness and in the shadow of death”, take heart, for you are exactly who he desires to visit. From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday:
Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives . . .
My youngest cousin on my mother’s side passed away yesterday from a brain aneurysm. She was only 50 years old. This is the song that comes to mind, a poem without words: A Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
God rest her soul and comfort those who love her.
Yesterday, All Soul’s Day, shortly after midnight Sr. Sarah’s mother went home to the Lord. She was able to be with her when she died. Just an hour or so ago Sr. Sarah shared with me this excerpt from a book of meditations based on St. Francis de Sales. It is a great comfort to her. May it be a comfort for all of you:
Death is a benefactor, who tears away the veil that separates us from God; it is the hand that closes our eyes to open to us the fatherland; it is the sunshine, the spring sunshine, which breaks the envelope of the humble chrysalis, to give it the wings and the flight of the butterfly; it is according to the expression of Holy Scripture and of the Church, the sleep which prepares us for an immortal awakening; it is the beginning of true life; it is the leap of the child into the arms of its Father. Let us then be consoled. (Lieutenant-Colonel M. De S., Draw Near to God)
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I am reading a new biography of Hudson Taylor, one of my two all-time favorite protestant missionaries. Hudson was a missionary to China in the late 19th century. It isn’t my favorite biography of him, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the title: It is not Death to Die. That line is a quote from Pilgrim’s Progress. When, at the end of Valiant’s life, he crosses over to the Father’s House, “all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. IT IS NOT DEATH TO DIE.” We’ve had a lot of deaths affect us in our house in the last six months: residents at our Emmanuel Houses, the death of a very good friend, a sister of one of our Sisters, the mother of another one. We have been staring death in the face constantly these days. The title of the Taylor biography is a good reminder of the truth, that in Christ, death is really only apparent. It is not death to die.
And that reminded me of the title of a biography of my other favorite protestant missionary, Amy Carmichael. Elisabeth Elliot write a life of her named A Chance to Die. In the preface to her book, Elisabeth writes about the debt she owes to Amy Carmichael–I feel a similar debt–how she “met” her at age fourteen by reading her books. From her preface:
The first of her books that I read was, I think, If, which became her best-seller. It was not written for teenagers, but for seasoned Christians with the solemn charge of caring for the souls of others. It was from the pages of this thin blue book that I, a teenager, began to understand the great message of the Cross, of what the author called “Calvary love.” I saw the chance to die, to be crucified with Christ was not a morbid thing, but the very gateway to Life. I was drawn–slowly, fitfully (my response was fitful, but inexorably. (emphasis added)
I pray to be drawn even more inexorably into this frame of mind, looking for those chances to die to self, confidently knowing that it is not death to die.