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 only 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.)

The answer to many prayers

I was doing some study on Psalm 5 this morning and came across this comment by Amy Carmichael on verse 3:

“’And will look up’, will keep watch, like Habakkuk on his watch-tower.  Have you ever found that your Father has answered a forgotten prayer?  I have, and I always feel so ashamed; it is so rude to forget.  A ‘Prayer-and-Answer Notebook’ helps one to remember.  It is evidence, which even the devil cannot dispute, of traffic with Heaven.  It kindles love; ‘I love the Lord because He hath heard’ (Ps 116.1).  How often we have had cause to say that.  My first note-book turned up among some old papers lately.  To read the notes was like finding sprays of verbena between the leaves of a book; you know how astonishingly fragrant they can be.  There was one little sentence that belonged to a rainy Sunday morning when I was, I suppose, about ten, so that leaf was about sixty years old, but it might have been only just picked, for as I read the words I remembered every detail of that prayer and that answer.

“If any of you keep such a book do not forget that the answer to many prayers is ‘Wait’, or sometimes, ‘No, not that, but something else, which, when you see Me, you will know was a far better thing.’”


It’s been a good while since I’ve quoted anything from my friend, Amy Carmichael . . . and she is always so good:

Is 53.7 Hard-pressed–yet He humbled Himself, nor opened His mouth.

The assault of our great enemy comes in waves.  Sometimes we cannot do the work committed to us to do, and this is indeed a trial of faith.  “Hard-pressed” is the word that describes it all.

It is the word spoken of our Lord Jesus in Rotherman’s translation. Hard-pressed–yet He humbled Himself, nor opened His mouth.  To ask why, even to wonder why, is to open our mouth.  Our Lord Jesus Christ shows us the way here as everywhere.  Am I hard-pressed in any direction inward or outward?  The only word I speak must be a word of acceptance  “Even so, Father.”  Underfoot is the rock of Romans 8.28.  Overhead is the banner of Eternal Love.  Nothing is going wrong, however wrong it seems.  All, all is well.

In another form

Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, writes about how important it is for us to have God’s perspective concerning all the events in our lives: “Can it be that that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God?  That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadow above the clouds, light never stops shining.”  Amy Carmichael tackles this issue as well:

Mark 16.12 After that He appeared in another form.

John 16.23 And in that day you shall ask Me nothing.

“We always expect the Lord to come to us in a joy.  Instead of that He sometimes appears in another form, He comes in a big disappointment.

“In the day that we see Him all will be clear.  The mysteries which now perplex us will be illuminated.  One day we shall see the glory to our glorious God and the good to all of us contained in the disappointment we cannot understand.

“So let us live as those who believe this to be true.  Let us praise before we can see.  Let us thank our Lord for trusting us to trust Him.”  (Amy Carmichael)

Try it for yourself

A challenge from Peter Kreeft:

No one who ever said to God, “Thy will be done,” and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy–not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future in this world, but in this moment at every moment.  Every other Christian who has ever lived has found exactly the same thing in his own experience.  It is an experiment that has been performed over and over again billions of times, always with the same result.

Try it for yourself.

The thick cloud

Yesterday’s post about the pillar of cloud reminded me of something I read recently.  (Sorry, I haven’t been keeping up with my “What I’m Reading” column . . . ) I recently finished a book about Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) and the Jewish Catholics who went to Auschwitz at the same time as she did.  Most them, like Edith, recognized God’s call on them to offer themselves as some sort of sacrifice for their Jewish brethren. Among them was a group of brothers and sisters from the same family, the Löb family, most of them priests and Sisters.  Their memorial card makes reference to the thick cloud that descended that descended upon Mount Sinai when the Lord revealed Himself to the people of Israel.  We, too, experience times when the Lord comes to us in what seems to be a thick cloud.  Let us take courage from the Löb siblings’ ability to recognize God in the one that covered them.

“Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud” (Ex 19.9).

We read these words in the Book of Moses that recounted the Exodus of the Jews.  We can apply these words to these chosen souls, who came from that same people to whom God appeared on the holy mountain. The holy mountain is the contemplative cloister.  On that mountain they were praying during the night, when the cloud descended upon them.  From a purely human perspective, this cloud, ominous and inescapable, would be nothing more than a threat.  From this cloud, however, they heard the voice of God.  Though each had his own path, they were one in their noble surrender to God’s holy will, and they recognized with joy their chosen lot.  And we saw them go.

The best promise of this life

“Everything that happens to you is for your own good.  If the waves roll against you, it only speeds your ship toward the port.  If lightning and thunder comes, it clears the atmosphere and promotes your soul’s health.  You gain by loss, you grow healthy in sickness, you live by dying, and you are made rich in losses.  Could you ask for a better promise?  It is better that all things should work for my good than all things should be as I would wish to have them.  All things might work for my pleasure and yet might all work my ruin.  If all things do not always please me, they will always benefit me.  This is the best promise of this life.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

I can’t say God didn’t warn me

I can’t say God didn’t warn me.  This morning I woke up early and picked up a book I’m reading, Can God be Trusted?  The last section I read before Mass was all about our need for patience.  Then I heard that one of our sisters who works at one of our homes for the elderly had been at the ER since 1:00 a.m. with one of the residents.  After Mass I decided to run over to the ER and bring her some breakfast and a cup of coffee.  I got halfway there (without a cell phone, mind you) and realized I didn’t know the resident’s last name.  I called home when I arrived, found out the last name, but that didn’t turn up anyone on their list.  I called home again, which after some sleuthing, found out that that was her maiden name, not her married name.  Giving the correct last name didn’t turn up anyone either.  Come to find out they were at the ER at another hospital across town!.  I didn’t have time to run over there, so I came back home with an uneaten breakfast sandwich and the cup of coffee.  And don’t ask me God’s purpose in all that.  Maybe it was just an exercise in patience–which I definitely had the grace for today.  God’s ways are not our ways, but they are always the best.   At the least, I can ask your prayers for our resident, that God provide all she needs and that she may be at peace.  Thanks.  And may you all have the patience you need today to trust in God’s ways.