A free heart where God can dwell

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 2 of The Gift of Faith by Tadeusz Dajczer

And you, in whom or in what do you place your hope? What do you count on? Who is your God? If you place your hope in a false god, then you will know bitterness and disappointment, because it is a matter that sooner or later will disappoint you. This will be a great grace for you because then your trust in mammon will begin to crumble.

What can this mammon that enslaves your heart be? It can be material as well as spiritual goods. For example, it can be attachment to money, to your children, to you work, or to something you are presently creating or working on. It may be attachment to peace or even to one’s own perfection. All these attachments cause your bondage and bring you slavery. As a human being you can choose to attach yourself to the one and only reality — the will of God. Everything that enslaves you closes you off from God and diminishes your faith.

How can you uncover your mammon? Are the tension, stress, restlessness, rushing, and sadness that accompany you through life signs that you serve some kind of mammon? There are people, for example, who live under constant stress. How great then must be their attachment to something opposed to God. People free from attachments are filled with the peace of God. The peace of God builds and strengthens mental health, which in turn reflects on physical health. In this way, the soul, the psyche, and the body participate in a person’s great freedom. A person free form attachments is also free from facial wrinkles, from stress, and from the diseases of civilization. Mammon systematically destroys a human person. It not only blocks you way to Christ and your adherence to Him, but it also destroys your health and your psyche.

An obvious sign of attachments is also your sadness in situations when God takes something away from you. He will, therefore, take that to which you are enslaved; hence, He will take everything that is your greatest enemy — whatever causes your heart not to be free for Him. It is only when you start to cheerfully accept these kinds of situations, and submit with serenity, that you will become more and more free.

While standing before the Lord during prayer, show Him not only your empty hands, but also your dirty hands defiled by your attachments to mammon, and pray that He will have mercy on you. Prayer can develop only in the atmosphere of freedom. As a disciple of Christ, you are especially called to contemplative prayer. For your prayer to become contemplation — a loving gaze on Jesus Christ, your beloved — it is essential to have a free heart. That is why Christ fights so much for your heart to be free. He fights through various events, difficulties, and storms, all the while giving you the chance to cooperate intensely with grace. In all these situations, Christ expects that you will try to cleanse your heart soiled by attachments and servitude to mammon. Hence, all these difficult moments and all the storms are graces for you. They are the passing by of the Merciful Lord who loves you so much that He wants to give you the magnificent gift — the gift of the total freedom of your heart. Your heart should not be divided; it should be a heart solely for Him.

To have faith means to see and understand the meaning of your life in accordance with the Gospel, and that God is most important. Your life is to be oriented toward Him — primarily to seek and to build His kingdom, with faith that everything else will be given to you (cf. Mat 6:33). God wants to bestow each person with all His love. However, He can bestow this on a person only to the extent of his openness and his readiness to be stripped of his attachments so that room may be made for Him. It is faith that creates the emptiness and vacuum in us where God can dwell.

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He wants to pardon everyone

Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time – Wednesday

Gospel of the Day: Matthew 18:15–20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.
If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

Quote of the Day
In Conversation With God, Vol. 4, Francis Fernandez

60.1 The promise of the sacrament of Penance and its institution. Giving thanks for this sacrament.

Jesus is well aware of our weaknesses and failings. That is why he instituted the sacrament of Penance. He wanted us to be able to straighten out our ways whenever necessary. Christ had the power to forgive sins and He exercised it on a number of occasions — with the woman taken in adultery (John 8:11), with the good thief hanging from the cross (Luke 23:43), with the paralytic of Capharnaum (Mark 2:1–12) … He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), just as he does now in our own day.

The prophets had prepared the way and foretold this restoration of all things in Christ and the reconciliation of man with God. It is reflected in the words of Isaiah: Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool (Is 1:18). This was  also the mission of the Baptist, who came to preach a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). How is it then that people wince when the Church preaches the need for Confession?

Jesus shows his mercy above all in his approach to sinners. I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not affliction (Jer. 29:11). This was God’s promise through Jeremiah. The liturgy applies these words to Jesus, for it is through him that God reveals his infinite love for us. He did not come to condemn us, to remind us of our pettiness and lack of virtue. He came to save us, to pardon us, to excuse us, to bring us peace and joy (St Josemaria Escriva, Christ is passing by). He sought to pardon those men and women he met on the roads and in the villages of Palestine. He wants to pardon everyone who lives on the earth for the rest of time. …

60.2 Reasons for our gratitude

… In Confession we encounter Jesus, in the same way that the good thief met him, as did the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman and so many others. We meet Jesus as Peter did after his denials. Inasmuch as the remission of sins is an action of Christ, it is at the same time an action of the Mystical Body, the Church.

We should also give thanks for the universality of this power granted to the Church in the person of the Apostles and their successors. The Lord is ready to forgive everything in everyone, always, as long as he finds the proper dispositions. …

Jesus says to us: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. In Confession he gives us the opportunity to empty all worldliness from the soul, to have a thorough cleaning out. Imagine that God wants you to be overflowing with honey, but you are full of vinegar. Where can God put the honey? asks Saint Augustine. First you have to empty and clean out the container. … The Holy Spirit will increase the sensitivity of our souls if we make the little effort required to confess our sins frequently, to examine our consciences diligently and make good resolutions. We will acquire an interior refinement of soul characterized by a horror of mortal sin. We will flee from the occasions of mortal sin while we grow in our hatred of venial sin. In this manner, Confession fills us with confidence in the struggle. Those who practice it have found it to be “the sacrament of joy.”

…With this aid we make progress in humility. We combat un-Christian customs. We confront lukewarmness head on. We strengthen our will and increase sacramental grace in ourselves by the virtue of the sacrament of Penance. How mamy benefits we receive from the Lord through this wonderful sacrament!

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Anchored in love, miles offshore

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Gospel of the Day: Matthew 14:22–33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Quote of the Day

In Conversation With God, Vol. 4 by Francis Fernandez

55.3 Confidence in God. He never arrives late to rescue us, if we go to him with faith and use the means available to us.

Peter stayed on his feet — even when facing the greatest difficulties —  as long as he acted with supernatural outlook, with faith, with confidence in the Lord. Later, in order to stay afloat, to receive God’s help, he had to cooperate, because when our cooperation is lacking divine help also ceases [Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on St Matthew’s Gospel, 50, 2] . It was our Lord who helped him to go on.

The experience of our personal weakness will serve for us to find Jesus who puts out his hand and enters our heart, giving us great peace in the midst of any trial. We should learn never to be afraid of God, who presents himself in ordinary things, as well as in the physical and moral sufferings we may experience in our lives. Have confidence; it is I, do not fear. God never delays coming to our rescue, and never fails to remedy every need. He arrives — at times in a hidden and mysterious way — at the opportune time. And when, for whatever reason, we find ourselves in a difficult situation — with the wind against  us — He comes close to us. He may pass as if to continue on so that we will call out to him, but He will not delay in coming to our side when we do.

If at times we realize that we are out of our depth, that we are sinking, we should repeat with Peter, Lord, save me! We should neither doubt  his Love nor his merciful hand. We should not forget that God does not demand the impossible. Instead, when He makes a request, He asks that we do what we can do, that we ask for what we cannot do and for his help to carry it out. [Saint Augustine, On nature and grace, 43]

What certainty our Lord gives us! He has guaranteed his protection. I do not depend on my own strength, my certainty, my tranquil haven. Even if the entire world is shaken, I read the written word I carry with me, for it is my fortress, my defence. And what does this word tell me? “I will be with you until the end of the world” it says.

Christ is with me. What shall I fear? Let the waves of the sea and the fury of the powerful come upon me. That will not weight me down any more than a spider’s web. [Saint John Chrysostom, Homily before departing for the desert] Let us not let go of his hand. He does not let go of ours.

We end our prayer asking Our Lady to intercede for us. She will help us to cry out confidently the liturgical prayer, Renew O Lord, the marvels of your love. [Divine Office, Sunday of the Third Week, Vespers] May we live firmly anchored in your love.

 

 

Slackness snaps the soul

Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus

Quotes of the Day

From Saint Ignatius’ letter on Perfection
to the fathers and brothers studying at Coimbra, May 7, 1547 

The Advantages of Fervor

Therefore, give serious thought to your vocation so that you can give much thanks to God for so great a favor and ask Him for the special help needed to correspond to it with courage and diligence. Both of these you must have in large measure if you are to attain the end you have in view. Sloth, tepidity, weariness in study and in the other exercises which you have undertaken for the love of our Lord you must recognize as the sworn enemies of your vocation.

For his encouragement each one should keep before his eyes, not those who he thinks will accomplish less, but rather those who are active and energetic. Never permit the children of this world to show greater care and interest in the things of time than you show for those of eternity. It should bring a blush to your cheek to see them run to death more enthusiastically than you to life. Hold yourselves as worth little if a courtier serves with greater dedication to gain the favor of an earthly prince than you do for the favor of the King of Heaven, or if a soldier battles with greater courage for the glory of victory and hope of spoils, than you fight for victory and triumph over the world, the devil, and yourselves, all for a heavenly kingdom and eternal glory.

For the love of God, therefore, be neither careless nor tepid. For if tautness snaps the bow, slackness snaps the soul; while on the contrary, according to Solomon, the soul of them that work shall be richly supplied [Prov. 13:4]. Try to maintain a holy and discreet fervor in your work and in the pursuit of learning as well as virtue. With both alike, one energetic act is worth a thousand that are listless, and what a lazy man cannot accomplish in many years an energetic man can usually achieve quickly.

In the matter of learning, the difference between the earnest and the careless student stands out clearly. The same holds true in the mastering of passion and the weaknesses to which our nature is subject, as in the acquiring of virtue. It is certain that, because the negligent do not struggle against self, they never achieve peace of soul or do so tardily, and never possess any virtue in its fullness, while the energetic and industrious make notable advances on both fronts.

Experience proves that in this life peace and satisfaction are had, not by the listless but by those who are fervent in God’s service. And rightly so. For in their effort to overcome themselves and to rid themselves of self-love, they rid themselves of the roots of all passion and unrest. And by acquiring habits of virtue, they naturally succeed in acting with ease and cheerfulness in accordance with these same virtues.

By this means they dispose themselves to receive the holy consolation of God our faithful consoler, for to him who conquers I will give the hidden manna [Rev. 2:17]. On the other hand, tepidity is the cause of a lifetime of uneasiness, for we never uproot its cause, self-love, nor do we ever deserve God’s help. Therefore you should rouse yourselves to work earnestly at your praiseworthy tasks, since even in this life you will perceive the advantages of holy fervor, not only in the growth of perfection in your souls but even in the peace of mind it grants you in this present life.

But if you look to the eternal reward, as you often should, Saint Paul will easily convince you that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us [Rom. 8:18], because this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal measure of glory beyond all comparison [2 Cor. 4:17].

From Saint Ignatius’ letter on maturing spiritually
to the scholastics at Alcala, 1543 

  1. We should be careful to preserve great purity of heart in the love of God, loving nothing but Him, and desiring to converse with Him alone, and with the neighbor for love of Him and not for our own pleasure and delight.
  2. We should speak only with necessity, and for the edification of ourselves or others, and leave aside those things which do not profit the soul, such as the desire for news and worldly affairs. We should try always to treat of matters connected with humility and mortification of the will, and not of things that give occasion for laughter or murmuring.
  3. Let no one seek to be considered a wit, or to affect elegance or prudence or eloquence, but look upon Christ, who made nothing at all of these things and chose to be humbled and despised by men for our sake rather than to be honored and respected.
  4. We should not wish to see or do anything which could not be done in the presence of God and His creatures, and we shall thus imagine that we are always in His presence.
  5. We should not dispute stubbornly with anyone; rather we should patiently give our reasons with the purpose of declaring the truth lest our neighbor remain in error, and not that we should have the upper hand.
  6. One of the things which we must be very firm about, if we are to please our Lord, is to cast far from us everything that could remove us from the love of our brethren. We should make every effort to love them with a tender charity, for Supreme Truth has said: This is how all will know you are my disciples, etc. [John 13:35].
  7. Should anyone do anything that is disedifying, and it seems that as a result he should be held in less esteem than he was held before, let him not be so discouraged as to wish to give up, but let him humble himself and ask forgiveness of those who might have been scandalized by his bad example and a penance from his superior. He should thank God, who has permitted him to be humbled, so that he can be known by all for what he is. He should not wish to appear better in the eyes of men than he is in the eyes of God. The brethren who behold him should think that they could fall into even greater weakness, and should ask God to strengthen them.
  8. In our superiors we should always behold the person of Christ, whom they represent, and have recourse to them in our doubts and hold it as certain that our Lord will direct us through them.
  9. We should not conceal our temptations, nor even our good thoughts, but make them known to our confessor or superior, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light [2 Cor. 11:14]. We should always act according to the judgment and counsel of our spiritual father rather than our own, which we should always regard rather with suspicion.
  10. In dealing with others we should bear ourselves modestly, and try not to appear sad or too serious, nor, on the other hand, overcheerful and gay, but as the Apostle says: Everyone should see how modest you are [Phil. 4:5].
  11. We should never postpone a good work, no matter how small it may be, with the thought of later doing something greater. It is a very common temptation of the enemy to be always placing before us the perfection of things to come and bring us to make little of the present.
  12. Let us all persevere in the vocation to which God calls us, and not make our first loyalty an empty word. For the enemy is wont to tempt those in the desert with thoughts of dealing with the neighbor and improving him, and to those who are helping the neighbor he will propose the great perfection of the desert and solitary life. Thus he lays hold of what is far off to prevent us from taking advantage of what is at hand.

Lord, teach me to pray

God alone can teach us how to pray

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 4, How to Pray by Father Jean Nicolas Grou

Notice yet one important point. If when you are meditating or reciting vocal prayers, you feel yourself strongly impressed with the presence of God, and you enjoy a certain sweet calm, and are inwardly drawn to silence, this is a sign that the Holy Ghost is taking special possession of your soul, and that He is communicating to you, on trial as it were by the way, the gift of mental prayer. Then you must be silent and suspend the exercise of your faculties, remaining calm and passive under the operations of the Holy Ghost. For when He acts in a way that is thus sensibly felt, we must in no way disturb His action, but give ourselves up to it by a very simple inward act of consent. If this action of the Holy Ghost were to last some time, or become more frequent, after having asked the advice of some one experienced in the spiritual life,  you would have ground for believing that you were called to real mental prayer and would be obliged to follow the call. In order that we may have the dispositions requisite for receiving the gift of mental prayer, three things are necessary: humility, simplicity, and docility.

In the first place constant humility in everything relating to prayer is indispensable. We must be always willing to depend on the Holy Ghost; we must not rely on our own efforts to acquire devotion, but expect all from God. We must believe ourselves unworthy of His favours, we must not desire them too eagerly, we must not be envious of the souls to which they are granted, we must remain in our own nothingness, and be content to remain there, as in our proper place, we must not aspire to anything exalted. Better would it be for us to pass our whole life in humility and vocal prayer, than that we should conceive the least esteem of ourselves, or prefer ourselves to others on account of our sublime gift of prayer. The greater number of souls whom God has raised from the ordinary path never desired this grace, or thought of it, and did not know in what it consisted. But they were humble. Their first feeling was one of astonishment that God should have deigned to cast a look on them; in calling them to this familiar converse with Himself, God above all proposed to Himself to make them perfect in humility, and if they had not corresponded to His designs they would have fallen lower than they were before.

Simplicity is the true note of all prayer, and nothing pleases God more. He does not wish so much studied preparation in his service; all is spoilt when devotion is reduced to a system, and so much careful arrangement is thought necessary. After all we must ever go back to the Holy Spirit; He alone can teach the right way to converse with God, and when He takes possession of a soul, the first thing He does is to withdraw her from all methods taught by men.

…Oh! how much is accomplished by doing nothing of ourselves, but relying on God to do all in us!

Prayer of the Day

O my divine Savior! Again I beseech Thee, more earnestly than ever, to teach me to pray. Place in me both the remote and proximate dispositions for the prayer of the Holy Ghost. Make me humble, simple, and docile; grant that I may do all in my power to become so. What will my prayer be if the Holy Ghost does not pray with me? And if my prayers are not well said, what will my life be? If it is not a life of sin, still it will be in danger of becoming so, and in any case full of imperfections and subject to heaps of venial sins.

Come, O divine Spirit! come and dwell and act within me. Take entire possession of my understanding and my will; direct their exercise not alone at the time of prayer, but at all times. I can neither glorify God, nor sanctify my soul without Thee. Amen.

[chapter 4, How to Pray, Grou]

Think of me, and I will think of thee

 

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 2 of How to Pray by Father Jean Nicolas Grou

The second end of prayer is to consider God in Himself, to adore His supreme Majesty, to contemplate His infinite perfections, to praise Him, to congratulate Him on being alone great, alone holy, alone All Powerful, the external, the immutable, independent Being; to rejoice with Him at His glory and His happiness, to love Him purely for Himself, to desire that all creatures should know Him, love Him, and obey Him; to esteem ourselves happy to be able to contribute in the smallest degree to His glory; to offer ourselves to the fulfillment of His adorable designs.

I will here remark that almost all those persons who limit themselves to vocal prayer, as a rule refer all their prayers to themselves; the more spiritual-minded Christians who make meditation, mostly apply the subject-matter to the amendment of their life, so that their reflections, have no other end but the avoiding sin, the correcting their faults and the acquiring virtues. It is interior souls that are the only ones who make God Himself the principal theme of their meditations, they being wholly devoted to His glory, His love and His adorable Will. This will not seem strange when we reflect that it is God who prays in them, who praises and glorifies Himself through them, and rightly understood, their prayer is the image, more of less perfect, of what He is continually doing in Himself.

The effect of all this should be to teach us how great need we have of being taught by God, and of frequenting the school of His grace, because in our prayers we refer all to ourselves, whereas we ought to refer all to God. Would that once for all we were convinced of a truth, which is no less evident than certain, to wit, that our interests are comprised in His interests; that in loving him we love ourselves; and that He is all the more mindful of us, the more we forget ourselves in order to think exclusively of Him!

Perhaps you say: “But if I do not think of myself, of my spiritual wants, of my salvation, who will think of them for me?” Can you, of yourself, have a thought of these things? Is it not God who puts good thoughts and holy desires into your heart? Does He never put thoughts in your mind that relate expressly to Himself? Why then do you not dwell on them, and why return always to yourself? Is it God, or rather is it not your own self-love that makes you leave Him to think of yourself? …

“My daughter,” said Jesus Christ one day to St. Catherine of Siena, “think of Me and I will think of thee.” He would say the same to each one of us, if we were in the dispositions of this Saint. And why are we not, or at least why do we not labour to acquire her dispositions?

Prayer of the Day

O my God! I plainly see I have not hitherto prayed as I ought; I have not known the great end of prayer. Rarely, perhaps even never, have I come into Thy presence with the sole intention of rendering Thee due homage; it is ever myself, and my needs of all descriptions that I lay at Thy feet. Deeply am I humbled at the imperfection of my prayers, and I beg Thee graciously to pardon me.

O Lord, purify, ennoble, raise my intentions to Thyself, never allow me to keep them fixed on myself. Pray Thyself in me, that my prayer be directed always to Thy glory. Should I in Thy presence have thoughts of anything but Thee? Is it not right that my nothingness should be lost in Thy immensity, and that the sight of my sins and imperfections should excite me to admire and praise Thy infinite holiness? Be Thou then master of my heart and mind in the time of prayer; employ them solely, or at least chiefly in adoring and loving Thee; and may the sentiments that enrapture Thy saints in heaven be frequently my occupation before Thy Altars. Amen.

[from chapter 2, How to Pray by Father Jean Nicolas Grou]