I watched an intriguing movie ‘Pilgrimage’, a thirteenth century drama set in Ireland. Brutal in reality, the violence is intense, while the subtler spiritual story of individuals and their response to events details an inspiring wisdom. The ever-present mysterious presence of God surrounds within the splendor of nature, the stunning Irish countryside detailing omnipotence. Providence whispers within prayer, chants, mountains, fogs, and the sea, while dramatically pronouncing in violence, thunderstorms, confusion, and death. Fanaticism, dogma and judgement are usurped by innocence, kindness, and the willingness to be subjected rather than the subjector; those willing to acquiesce to fate ultimately victorious over those attempting to conquer: the story of Christ retold in a different setting. A Cistercian, hard of heart, a consecrated one constantly manipulating in a perceived dedication to God, one who raises fear and domination up as the ultimate attributes of God, drowns from his obsession with a relic. While one pure at heart, able to exercise the relic with faith, hope, and charity has the clouds open to him, sunshine pouring down upon him with his rejection of the relic. Another accompanies, a mute one properly discerning, while maintaining continual contrite vigilance after a life of sin and death, a background of hinted at violence during escapades in the Holy Land warring in the Crusades. Lines from the gem of a film: “How does a man without a voice confess his sins?” The prince of wrath, violent and intent screams when the Cistercian curses his fate: “If I wait long enough there will be another crusade, another chance of absolution. It’s the way of the world.” In other words, he declares: I am a wrathful man, intent upon anger, vengeance and violence. I possess the courage and strength to bear forth my will in seizing what I want. I kill as I need. I will then make everything eternally correct by dedicating my warrior skills, my brutality, to the Church for the reconquering of the Holy Land. Not for the faint of heart, ‘Pilgrimage’ proves to prevail as a stunning film of proper faith.
Certain portions of Sacred Scripture, attentively pronounced or reverently considered, are similarly of great efficacy. Consequently, we should be familiar with those facts corresponding to the virtue in question (virtue concentrated upon), and employ them frequently, particularly when beset by the predominant opposite passion. Those, for instance, who’s strive to attain mildness and patience may repeat these or similar passages:
“Bear patiently with the wrath of God which comes upon you in punishment for your sins.” –Baruch 4:25
“The patience of the poor shall not perish, or be deprived of its reward”. –Psalm 9:19
“The patient man is better than the valiant; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he taketh cities.” –Proverbs 16:32
“By your patience you will win your soul.” –Luke 12:1
“With patience run to the fight set before us”. –Hebrews 12:1
Those or similar aspirations may be used: “O God, when shall I be armed with patience as a shield against the weapons of my enemy? When shall I so love Thee as to receive with joy all the afflictions Thou shalt be pleased to send? O life of my soul, shall I never begin to live for Thy glory alone, perfectly resigned to all sufferings? O how happy, I should be, if in the fiery trial of tribulation, I burn with a desire of being consumed for Thy service”.
–Dom Lorenzo Scupoli ‘The Spiritual Combat’
…you must not attempt to acquire patience by immediately seeking crosses in which to delight; rather seek first the lowest degrees of this great virtue. Similarly, do not aim at all sorts of virtue—not even many—simultaneously, but cultivate one firmly, then another, if you wish such habits to take deep root in your soul with greater facility. For in the acquisition of a particular virtue, and in the focusing of thought upon its cultivation, the memory will be exercised more in this one line of endeavor; your understanding, enlightened by divine assistance, will find new means and stronger motives for attaining it, and the will itself will be invigorated with fresh ardor in the pursuit. Such concentrated power of action is not possible when the three faculties are divided, as it were, by different objects. –Dom Lorenzo Scupoli ‘The Spiritual Combat’
St Dominic painting El Greco
…St Bernard writing upon the words of Job: “I am reduced to such an extremity that the very things I had a horror to touch are at present become ordinary food”. “Would you know”, says he, “what power practice or habit has over us? At first a thing will appear to you insupportable; but if you accustom yourself to it, in time it will seem less hard, afterwards you will find it easy, and in the end it will give you no pain at all, but a great deal of joy and delight”; so that you may say with Job–“I now take pleasure in feeding upon those things, which before I had difficulty to touch”. –Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez ‘The Practice of Christian & Religious Perfection volume I’
When one fails to advance in perfection because one fails to advance in humility, it is easy to grow discouraged and backslide. Lost is the spirit of perseverance. Replacing it is the delusion that doubling up on spiritual exercises will increase satisfaction. Instead one only feels more aridity. Motivated by self-seeking rather than by self-denial, one misses the mark of real advancement, stubbornly refusing to take counsel and reasonable instruction from one wiser than he or she. It is hard to admit that what seems so right has proven to be so wrong. Moral deeds have been done, but for the motive of increasing joy in oneself, not submission to God. Hardly anyone escapes this danger. Before long this “outstanding citizen,” this “pillar of the church,” this “mirror of virtue” grows slack in love of God and charity to others and may even fall into corruption he or she so publicly abhorred.
—Susan Muto ‘John of the Cross for Today: The Ascent”. The originator of the wonderful term ‘wasting time gracefully’
There are certain spirits I am immediately and intensely attracted to. Susan Muto is one. I find her to be a beautiful woman, immensely wise in the subtly of profound spiritual growth. I enjoy contemplating her physical beauty as a woman. I heard it said that though St John of the Cross is a name tossed about by many, few truly comprehend the depth and ascension of his thought. The previous statement basing the idea of comprehension upon a demanding utilitarian aspect. Vital comprehension of St John of the Cross involves application rather than knowing. From a distance, I rest assured Dr Susan Muto is a soul attuned to St John of the Cross.
…We must be discreet and humble. Our greatest ambitions must be to see the crucified Christ always before us. His life and death, what efforts He demands of us.
Seek nothing beyond this. It will please the Divine Master. His real friends ask only for those things that will enable them to fulfill His commissions. Any other desire, any other quest, is but self-love, spiritual pride, an encirclement of the devil.
Such a disciplined conduct is well fortified against the assaults of the devil. When the skilled opponent sees the fervor of persons beginning spiritual exercises and the fixed resolution of their wills, he insinuates his subtleties into their understanding. A break-through here permits him to push his way into the will. He is then master of both these faculties.
As a feint, he inflates their imagination in moments of prayer, suggesting elevated sentiments. He works particularity on those who are curious and discerning by nature, who are subject to self-conceit and are fond of their own schemes. His aim, of course, is to amuse them with idle dreams and the sensible pleasure they afford so that, drugged with a false sense of appreciation of God, they may forget to cleanse their hearts, to examine themselves, and to practice mortification. In this way they become inflated with pride, and they idolize their own understanding.
–Dom Lorenzo Scupoli ‘The Spiritual Combat’
…prayer is an efficacious means of mortification….mortification of ourselves is the true fruit we must reap from prayer; and that we may, with reason, suspect that prayer which is not accompanied with mortification. For as, in order to shape iron, it is not sufficient to heat and soften it in the fire, but it must also be beaten with the hammer before it can receive its proper form; so it is not sufficient to mortify our heart by the heat of prayer, but we must also make use of mortification to fashion our soul…. –St Alphonsus Rodriguez