The more I think about working with a child, the stronger the conviction becomes. I thought of my instant recoiling, pulling away from the child due to the fact I would suffer. I have become disgusted with my intrinsic reaction. The child, and a child he is, a fatherless boy, is not suffering immensely? I am concerned with my suffering? The child’s suffering and confusion, bewilderment, comprehending he will never see adulthood, his time is limited, I do not focus upon his suffering? I felt selfish and weak? My thoughts actually went to Ann, inspired. I know she would have responded with strength, and for all the proper reasons, no emotion and limited sentimentality, no self-aggrandizement. She would have instantly embraced the calling, honored and trusting in God. Her strength is to be admired, even if it makes her difficult. However moving forward, learning, I do not wallow in guilt and shame. My weakness will be my strength. My ability to collapse and acquiesce before the Lord, even if done within whining, complaining, and argument, is authentic. Trusting in the Lord, genuine, I know I am ready for what could be the turning point of my salvation, the escalating from a disciple to an apostle. This photo of Father Thomas Philippe centers as an image.
Driving home from work, I was listening to ‘St Therese of Lisieux: the Story of a Soul’, enchanted to hear the Little Flower edify upon working with souls. Deeper in scope yet similar in style, I admired the connection of her words to the training provided by the Hospice of the Western Reserve. The Hospice stressed over and over that my agendas and ideas must be abandoned. I must approach the patients with no intent nor plan. As a volunteer, I provide fellowship, allowing my role to develop in accordance with the needs and desires of the patient. The patient is the one granted control. I acquiesce not only to the administration of the Hospice, yet even above that, the patient is the one to determine the role I will play in their life. I adapt and cater to the needs of the patient. Kindly, caringly, and with compassion, I bow to the patient’s demands. To be of service is to listen and understand. The feeling grows stronger that I will be working with children. To be honest, I realize it is a great responsibility, yet I became so consumed with the conviction I called my superior, leaving a message for her to seek out a child, one who has no father, informing her I prayed intently upon her words emphasizing the need for men to work with boys from broken homes. God continues to astound. I absolutely never thought of working with a young boy dealing with terminal illness. My superior’s insight points me in such a direction. I accept the challenge, absorbed within the emotion: the faith, hope, and charity; knowing God will perform spectacular things through me, knowing I will be deeply hurt.
Read the words of the Little Flower from her autobiography, comprehending their relevant coalescence.
From the moment I entered the sanctuary of souls, I saw at a glance that the task was beyond my strength. Throwing myself without delay into Our Lord’s Arms, I imitated those tiny children, who, when they are frightened, hide their faces on their father’s shoulder, and I said:
“Dear Lord, Thou seest that I am too small to feed these little ones, but if through me Thou wilt give to each what is suitable, then fill my hands, and without leaving the shelter of Thine Arms, or even turning away, I will distribute Thy treasures to the souls who come to me asking for food. Should they find it to their taste, I shall know that this is due not to me, but to Thee; and if, on the contrary, they find fault with its bitterness, I shall not be cast down, but try to persuade them that it cometh from Thee, while taking good care to make no change in it.”
The knowledge that it was impossible to do anything of myself rendered my task easier. My one interior occupation was to unite myself more and more closely to God, knowing that the rest would be given to me over and above. And indeed my hope has never been deceived; I have always found my hands filled when sustenance was needed for the souls of my Sisters. But had I done otherwise, and relied on my own strength, I should very soon have been forced to abandon my task.
From afar it seems so easy to do good to souls, to teach them to love God more, and to model them according to one’s own ideas. But, when we draw nearer, we quickly feel that without God’s help this is quite as impossible as to bring back the sun when once it has set. We must forget ourselves, and put aside our tastes and ideas, and guide souls not by our own way, but along the path which Our Lord points out.
Today is the feast day of St Alphonsus Rodriguez, a writer whose Jesuit Spanish spiritual methods I embrace humbly as my own. Identifying, I embrace his centering upon self-perfection, refining one’s self interiorly. I see no other way. The journey is interior. The conquering is interior. The victory is interior.
Here is a link to a Catholic website, Traditional Catholic Priest, that intelligently and concisely informs about saints during their feast days. I find the priest’s blog interesting in the sense it is the perspective of an extremely conservative Catholic mindset. Recently, he posted an entry on Sedevacantist, schismatic churches declaring there has been no true pope since Pope John XXIII–post Vatican II. Today’s post is a powerful repost from another blog. I see his recent efforts as a wrestling with the thoughts and ways of Pope Francis. I admire insight into a priest struggling with the Church. Giving his loving heart, staunch loyalty and worthy mind to Catholicism, how does a conservative priest reconcile with a pope redirecting the Church away from his predispositions and opinions. I contrast the situation with a liberal priest who says mass at St Paul Shrine, who never stops speaking with elation, excitement, and joy about the words and actions of Pope Francis. Pope Francis is an absolute celebration of his deepest beliefs, a flowering of his priestly vocation. The Church is a mystery, complex and all-embracing, beyond individuals, truly the body of Christ here upon earth.
St Alphonsus Rodriguez elaborating upon the Eucharist:
…the goodness of God does not rest here: He is not content with coming only into our houses, and remaining in our churches but he will also have us possess him within ourselves; he will remain within our breast, he will make that his temple and tabernacle. O ineffable love! O unheard of liberality! That I should receive into my breast and heart, Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the same Savior whom the Blessed Virgin carried nine months in her sacred womb! And if St. Elizabeth on seeing Your holy mother, who bore You in her sacred womb, and entering into her house cried out in astonishment, and filled with the Holy Ghost, “whence comes this grace and favor on to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me;” what shall I say, O my God, on seeing You enter not only into my house but into myself. With how far greater reason may I say, whence comes this grace granted me who have been for so long a time the devils habitation; to me who have so often offended You, and been so ungrateful and unfaithful for so many benefits? Whence proceeds this grace and favor but from the access of thy mercy, and because thou art goodness itself, “to make it thy delight to be with the sons of men,” and because your love of them is infinite. –St Alphonsus Rodriguez ‘The Practice of Christian Perfection & Religious Perfection’
During mass today, an awareness struck. Let’s see what happens. I felt positive God is going to give me a child to work with. I did not consider such a situation, anticipating elderly people to care for. The thought of a child even hurt, deeply penetrating. I have always felt gifted with children. The more I reflected the more I sensed a reality. God was going to shatter my heart. Knowing how attached I get to children, He was going to assign me to a child. Of course me being me–no Mary, I threatened Him, demanding if He breaks my heart so deeply He better be with me. I did not enter this agreement considering children a part of death. That was not a part of my romantic heroic thinking. I am not sure I could handle assisting a child through so much, which only made me realize that was why God would ask. Let’s see what happens.
Listening to the Trappist. Father Thomas Keating, I learned something a bit startling, eye-opening in a certain sense. In the Gospels, Jesus is asked a hundred and eighty-three questions. He directly answers only three. He ask three hundred and seven questions. He leaves no writing. Within his salvific love and compassion, Jesus is a teacher who provides darkness rather than clarity, willing to lead us by the hand into the mysteries of His Father. He leaves us with the symbol of the crucifix, a resurrection, ascension, and the Eucharist. The law was established before His incarnation, he fulfills through grace. Divine Mercy His loving intent, Jesus inquires more than He declares. Faith, hope, and charity are the answers he seeks. The answer He provides is all embracing, beyond literal interpretations, beyond reasoning and linear thought. I trust in You, Jesus.
I am being elevated, prepared for a spiritual undertaking, passivity the proper disposition for reception. God desires not intelligent answers. The last thing God needs is another scholar, or another writer, or another artist, or another Church authority, or another self-serving individual, or another wanna-be. Delusion abounds: there are too many books, too many songs, too many movies, too many words of advice, too many words of attempted wisdom. The world is inundated with excess, too many people answering questions; questions that were never asked by Christ in his abundance of questioning. God seeks those willing to hear His call for a personal crucifixion, to live in obedience to His will beyond concepts defining reality, to live contemplating questions, while not conceiving and spouting answers. Abandonment to faith, hope, and love, He commands, a life within the law surrendering to grace. The spiritual life is not a game, nor a test, nor the accumulation of knowledge. Father Thomas Keating has another interesting idea: the spiritual life is a life upside down, those advancing only able to do so through failure and wounds; through experienced spiritual healing. It is not personal advancement, rather the turning of one’s self upside down. Jesus turned the chosen people’s religious life upside down. He did not come to abolish the law, yet he did overturn tables and concepts, going beyond and on into eternity. God does the choosing, reading the heart as He did with Joseph, Old Testament and New Testament Joseph. Even failing last week, and I did horribly—throwing temper tantrum after temper tantrum—challenging God within interior rebellion and argument, an unending whining and complaining, threatening to run off to North Dakota, cajoling and manipulating–God still sees fits to grace me, to set me forth upon a mission to bring him souls. The conviction he is doing something special within my life emerges stout. The morning meeting with my Hospice organizer, basically my boss, moments were perceived larger than life, the tangible presence of purpose. I know we are going to do great things together. I am incredibly comfortable in her company, obliging her with obedience. I will treat her requests as the requests of God. We talk very little of religion; spiritually nothing to critical detail. The depth of my confidence flowers within my acquiescence to direction, allowing God to use me through the guidance of an elite organization. It is just so incredibly perfect, mind-blowing in happening and circumstance. I am left speechless and spellbound; focused, cued-in, and concentrated up bringing my life into fruition. I am so excited, and the elation arises humbly through the recognition of the power and ways of God, the uplifting understanding He calls me. I am decreasing as He increases. He honors me with the grace to answer the call to service. Without Him, I am nothing. That was clearly demonstrated last week, a necessary refining.
Today after mass, coinciding with my disillusionment with the insanity I was perceiving within Cleveland, I spoke with a friend, a good man—interesting, charming, and entertaining with a shared love of basketball—I could not stop speaking, while knowing I did not want to speak. It is not my way. I associate the exchange to A.A. participation, understanding there is nothing there for me. ‘NO!!!’ must be the answer to such flabbergasted interaction. It antagonizes the contemplative approach concentrating upon faith, hope, and charity. In order to bring souls to God, to dedicate my life to service, thus a greater contemplative life, it must be through love, mature love dominating my interactions with others. Again I am left with the feeling I encountered a person unable to apply a mature Godly love to their life, another single person, failed marriages, no children, no familial life, confusing relationships, a vast social world of people constantly answering questions while never living lives of mature love, never living lives of deepened and expanded faith and hope–spiritual children seeking identity. Going out in four directions, deepening and expanding, I must concentrate upon faith, hope, and charity. Over and over, contemplating the concepts, asking questions, foregoing answers. What is faith? What is hope? What is love? Beyond the confirmation of a specific path is the fact I do not want to define my spirituality by the lacking existing within others. It is not enough to possess penetrating insight into others. In fact, it is disheartening. I am sick of it. I need more. I must pass beyond, allowing God to manifest. My theological virtues become beacons. Everything is strengthened and nourished through mass and the Eucharist, the Poor Clares and Franciscan priests becoming cohorts. There is one more I am convinced, unreservedly positive, belongs on my team, yet that is none of my business, the proper longing enough, satisfying God. There is no need to accumulate further knowledge nor awareness. I do not need more information, nor do I accomplish anything by impressing others. The time for authentic action has arrived. The idea of things being none of my business, relates perfectly to my feeling toward the conversation held after mass—the discussing of eastern and western churches, watching Russia, the state of the world, homosexual marriage and politics, questioning the church, in truth spiritually-disturbing arbitrary small talk lacking Godly mature love, yet also far from wicked or mean spirited, just slightly off—none of my business—reflecting back upon the Trappist monk from Gethsemane, and the message given to the monk by a dying monk. The monk approaching his maker, reposed within his final words, presented the idea that the closer he drew to God through death, the more he understood that very few things were truly any of his business. Very few things are truly any of our business within this grand experience of life. The majority of things that consume and occupy a mind mean nothing when framed by death and eternity; the reality of possibilities narrowed to the acceptance of embracing the cross, allowing trivial matters to fall away. Detachment is my business. Jesus’ message is to be lived rather than prescribed as an answer to questions.
I met with my Hospice organizer this morning, a wonderful experience. Communication is excellent. The overall sense that God is guiding my every breath becomes apparent. I have found my calling, amazed by the totality of my volunteering efforts. Socially–spiritually and worldly-it presents fulfillment. I am told I am a hot commodity being a male, opportunities exist involving attendance to minor league baseball games, sporting events, accompanying boys stricken with terminal illness who need an older male to guide and provide fellowship. I almost asked her ‘are you serious? I can enjoy such splendor? How much do I have to pay?’ It is nothing, only God asking me to be of service. I feel absolutely blessed. I want to share a letter from a friend delivered during mass yesterday.
Mary’s month of the Holy Rosary 2015
Thank you for the kindness you have shown me by inviting me to the Poor Clare’s auction and brunch. Not to mention our lunches at Aladdin’s. You must allow me to treat you to lunch sometimes Jim. The Lord is working through you in so many wonderful ways. He’s always putting you right where He needs you to be. And you are always doing just what He needs you to do. May you continue to reach out to those who need a helping hand a piece of your caring, listening heart…your prayers and your LOVE. Thank you for the friendship you have offered. I pray that I may be worthy to be your friend and a friend of Jesus. I pray that God gives me the grace and courage to overcome my pride and embrace the virtue of humility. I pray that you Jim are given the gift of patience. In God’s time may you receive your mission and share your heart with those in need. May you continue to spend time in silence before your Eucharistic Lord adoring Him, praising Him and thanking Him. May you continue to grow close to Our Brother Jesus and His Holy Mother Mary. Remember angels and saints surround you.
“Learn from me, for I am meek, and humble of heart” (Matthew 11-29). It is everything to have a heart that is meek toward our neighbor and humble toward God. At every moment give such a heart to our Savior, and let it be the heart of your mind. You will see that to the extent that this holy and considerate friend takes up a place in your mind, the world with its vanities and trifles will leave you. –St Francis de Sales ‘Roses Among Thorns’