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.

True courage

I just finished reading a beautiful book on prayer, Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden, by Dr. Anthony Lilles.  I liked his take on the difference between bravery and courage:

True humility attracts God.  Humility regulates how we esteem ourselves.  The word humility itself derives from the Latin humus which means rich fertile soil.  This suggests the great primordial truth of our origins.

Man was fashioned from the dust of the earth, and at the end of his days, he returns to it.  God breathed his life into mud and made it capable of doing something divine.  Life is a very fragile gift lavished upon us when we have done nothing to deserve it.  We have only a very brief time to make of it something beautiful for God.  God is attracted to souls that ground their lives in this truth.  Such humility permits Him to accomplish great things.

A particular kind of courage needs to go with such humility: the courage to accept ourselves, including our weaknesses.  Romano Guardini distinguishes this sort of courage from bravery.  Bravery confronts things that threaten us from without.  Courage, from this perspective, helps us confront what is within us.  This is not the same as excusing our own sinfulness.  It is a matter of humbly accepting the truth about ourselves, courageously acknowledging we need God’s help.

(Anthony Lilles, Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden)

Then it may be

“When people are making demands on you and you feel drained and empty; when you have to speak and you have not had the time you wanted to prepare; when God calls you to a task for which you know yourself inadequate; when you feel humiliated and foolish because some undertaking in which you did your honest best has turned out disastrously–then it may be, to your astonishment, someone will tell you that you helped most, did your most fruitful work.  When our ego is humbled and not obstructing, God’s creative Spirit can often have freer play.  Like the bare trees, it may be that we allow the glory to shine through at these times more purely than in our summer prosperity.”  (Maria Boulding)


“You are only a child!”


“I wonder whether we take seriously enough, we grown men and women, the stress that Jesus puts on being a child in order to receive what God has to give?  It means God can come fully only to the little one.  It means renouncing all ideas of our own spiritual importance, of what we do for God, what we give to God, our own supposed goodness and virtue.  It means casting aside any concern for that image of ourselves, so precious to ourselves, that we are indeed truly spiritual men and women.  Julian of Norwich maintains that, in this life, we can have no other stature than that of childhood.  I think that when Jesus takes the child in his arms, sets him in front of himself, pointing to him as a model, it is to himself he is pointing.  His inmost heart was always that of a child and that is hwy he could live with such freedom, courage and self-squandering.  To my mind this is the nub of the truly Christian faith, this grasp that all is gift and our work is simply to receive, to learn how to receive.  Certainly, when I myself get the spiritual ‘fidgets’ and become anxious about myself and my life, I find my answer in simply saying to myself: ‘You are only a child!'”  (Ruth Burrows)

Be it understood

“Be it understood and remembered that the darkness of trials is not evil, that dryness of spirit is not sin, and that confusion of mind is not malice. They are invitations to patience, calls to resignation, beckonings to the healing Cross, and admonitions to be humble and obedient to the will of God.”

William Ullathorne from Patience and Humility, Sophia Institute Press

Learn to live in peace

More from St. Francis de Sales:

Learn to live in peace and gently bear up with your little miseries.  You belong unreservedly to God.  He will lead you safely to the port.  If, however, he does not deliver you immediately from your imperfections, it means that he has some other plan for you and that could be to give you a longer formation in the practice of humility, so that you may be well rooted in that lovely virtue.

“Sure that he loves you still”

The next few days I would like to feed you some quotes from St. Francis de Sales, the great writer for lay folks.  This first one addresses those of us who are overly concerned about doing everything right (another word for pride :-):

Take great care not to get overly upset whenever you commit some faults.  Humble yourself immediately before God, but let this humility be a loving humility, which will fill you with fresh confidence to throw yourself immediately into God’s arms, secure in the knowledge that God, in his goodness, will help you to change for the better.  And so, whatever be the faults you commit and whenever you commit them, gentle ask God’s pardon and tell him that you are perfectly sure that he loves you still and that he will forgive you.  Always do this in a simple and gentle manner.