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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fraternal Charity

Our Mistress said to me one day: "Your programme of life seems to be this: I will be kind to those who are kind, and amiable with the amiable. Then, naturally you become agitated as soon as someone disagees with you. In this you are like the pagans spoken of in the Gospel. And Our Lord Himself tells us not to imitate them but rather 'do good to them that hate you and pray for them that persecute you.' To do good to those who only who are good to us springs from a wisdom that is merely human; in other words, all for self and nothing for God.

~My Sister Saint Therese, by Sister Genevive of the Holy Face (Celine Martin)

I am reading this book right now, and I am having to take it in bits and pieces. Not because it is difficult--quite the contrary! It is beautiful, fascinating, enlightening, and easy to read. But the powerful spirituality, the call to follow Christ and truly embrace his words...ALL OF THEM, is excruciatingly painful. Every time I read a passage I realize how far I am from sainthood, and I nearly despair of even meeting the minimum qualifications of a follower of Christ. This is the standard to which I would like to measure myself, but when I use this and then reflect upon it, I realize that I can't even reach the scale. So I'm learning it's best to read a little here and there, take it to heart, and give God the opportunity to chang me, rather than let despair darken the light He is trying to bring via the Little Flower's powerful explanation of what it means to be like Jesus.

Last night I was really down on myself, having read several passages. Then it came to me, I think via some words of St. Therese of Avila, another Carmelite and Doctor of the Church, reminding me that "self-knowledge", that is, awareness of our inability to do anything without the Divine Grace of God is a good thing and leads to the virtue of humility. So perhaps I am only suffering via a reduction of pride. It is not a sin to realize we do not measure fact, we need to understand that we cannot POSSIBLY measure up to the Saints, but must depend upon God to bring us to him.

All we have to do is reach upward towards him and He will reach back to us and lift us higher, one step at a time. And if we let go and fall back, He will wait and come back for us once again when we are ready and reaching back to Him.

God is infinitely patient, infinitely merciful, and loves us without bounds. So I'm sharing my lesson with you all, because I know we've all been there, where we are trying and seem to always be failing, and as a result, become discouraged. But then when we think we're failing, it's sometimes only a gift of self-knowledge, a recognition that we've maybe been relying too much on ourselves, we've been prideful, we've been vain...or what have you. And when we give in to those temptations, then God has no room because we close him out, shove His Divine hand aside and try to go our way. As soon as we recognize what we are doing, God is there and will embrace matter where we are, and once again set us on our way.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Adoro!

I'm on probably what is my fourth reading of "Story of a Soul." I just finished "Manuscript B."

It's becoming more clear to me what the Little Flower, St Therese of Lisieux, is telling us. And as it does, it seems even more impossibly distant for me to even thinking of attempting her "Little Way."

I'm sure that by my 18th month, I was well on way of the non-saint track.

But your words remind me that "all things are possible with God."

As an aside, that Martin family must have been something. In not that many more years there may be seven canonized saints in it. I'm sure St. Therese is working on that.

Anonymous said...

I read Fire Within last spring and had a similar experience—a recognition not only of how far off I was from such devotion but also just how much I invest in activities that don't help me further my progress on that path. At the same time, I try to balance the asceticism of both Sts. Theresa and St. John of the Cross with with the everyday spirituality of St. JosemarĂ­a Escrivá.

Thanks God for small humiliations.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: It sounds like a fabulous book. I really need to spend more time reading the writings of our Saints. I should seek out a copy of that book and some of St. Teresa of Avila's work too.

You have articulated what I've been feeling lately. Saint, me? Not even close.

On the plus side, up until a year ago, I was not even trying to be a Saint.

Sarah Reinhard said...

Thanks for sharing this, Adoro! I have Story of a Soul on my autumn reading challenge, and reading your post only made me want to read it more...

I so relate with what you write. The saints, though, are great heroes and have given me hope...they were, after all, human, just like us. (Even if they were not AT ALL like me!!!)

Anonymous said...

I love Therese and Celine! This book you are reading is a treasure! Therese told Celine that the 'little way' was surely made for her. God bless you.