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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Temptations and Virtues

* sigh *

I am suffering many of the former, having almost NONE of the latter.

During this Advent season, I have been reading St. Francis DeSales "Introduction to the Devout Life." As I had written before, it hit me RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES and I resolved to make a very good Confession before Christmas. I resolved to prepare, to be blunt, be brief...and be gone, as coached by one of our very wondeful and wise priests at one of his Saturday Advent talks.

I wanted to choose my time, but as it happened, the Lord would not leave me alone. Last night I couldn't relax, I was stressed, tearful, and while I didn't intend to go to Mass or Adoration at all last night, that's exactly where I went - to the Church, that is. It was long after Mass had ended, and I wondered if I would miss Confessions as well, but I didn't. In fact, the line was still very long. So I re-read the meditations in "Devout Life" and got in line when that still small voice told me it was the right time.

Then the old thing began to happen...I began to tremble, tear up, to absolutely PANIC and I realized that this was why I had been called to the chapel last night; because my soul recognized the need for Confession, not tomorrow or Wednesday, but RIGHT THEN.

I was so nervous that I could not complete my examination of conscience, so I was forced to pray over and over to the Holy Spirit to help me speak of those sins that most offended God.

So I went, I did my best, I made my Act of Contrition, and knelt at the very feet of Jesus, acknowledging my imperfections, my attachments to sin, all those things that block my relationship with Jesus.

And I left, thankful, yet feeling sort of numb. I am so glad that grace doesn't depend upon "personal feelings"! I did my penance, prayed some more, and returned home having shed my tears.

Before going to sleep, I picked up my other Advent book, Father Ciszek's "He Leadeth Me", and this book indeed is already changing my life. More on that later. He is speaking to me in a way that I never knew I would find for he addresses my concerns, my temptations, my very struggles at work and how to use them to further God's Kingdom. His words of wisdom, spoken through his own horrible experiences in Soviet work camps shamed me as I considered my relatively cushy job (relative to his!), and thus he is helping me to find the resolve to honor God in the small things.

So today, as usual, going in to work with my stomach in knots, overstressed before I even entered my cube, I nontheless had resolved to exude Jesus Christ today.

The Virtues of Fortitude, Temperance, Humility (above all), Patience (just under Humility!), and Prudence were going to be my personal buzzwords to get me through the day.

Rather, each and ever Virtue was called to the test...and each and EVERY time, I failed, and failed again. I had actually fallen before I had even left my garage this morning! But I had driven on, thinking, "Well, that doesn't define my day..."

I had the best of intentions.

So today I proved once again that the best intentions still pave the road to Hell.

Instead of representing Christ today, I'm pretty certain I represented the one who shall not be named. I'm completely ashamed of myself.

And tonight, I just felt tormented, frightened, unfocused...all those things. So while I walked my dog, struggling spiritually, I prayed my new favorite prayer: I claim the protection of the blood of the Lamb.. Over and over again, believing every blessed word. Begging for mercy from this spiritual torture.

Then I went to Mass and offered all this to Jesus, trying to settle down, considering whether I should go to Confession AGAIN given the terrible day I've had, all through my own weakness, my own fault, my own wretched soul.

How wretched we all are in the face of God most Holy! I thank God for this grace He has given me, to be able to see how desperately I need him, how little I can do on my own!

But still...should I go to Confession again, I pondered? I did not believe I had sinned gravely today, just average, everyday sinning, the same stuff we all struggle with, but today was just worse than usual. The evil one does indeed get to us most often through the little things; not the large ones.

"Bless me, Father, for I have's been....uh...23 hours since my last Confession....."

I figured that if I did go to Confession to talk about my transgressions against the Virtues, Father would likely chastize me for being scrupulous, offer wise counsel to deal with days like this, would absolve me again and tell me to keep it together this time. And to remind me that Venial sins do not require immediate Confession and having gone to Mass erased them, anyway.

Remind me to post about sin later. I'll be teaching a class on it in a couple months.

Anyway, I determined not to bother Father as he had a long line already, people likely in need of the grace of the Sacrament...not just a bunch of whiners such as myself. I'd already been to Mass, thus I had recieved the cure, and it was time to depend upon God's promises and His abundant Grace.

So here I am, at home, feeling better because Jesus has lifted some of my burden. But today was a lesson in Humility, I think. Humility in that God used all of my weaknesses at once to show me that I need to depend upon Him, to pray when confronted by temptation, and even upon faltering, to fall at His feet, over and over again. Because without Jesus....there is nothing. Without the Lord, we are only bits of dust.

Praise the Lord for His infinite Mercy!

P.S. (I never said it would be an INTERESTING post!)


Anonymous said...

Wow, what an awesome story. That is such a great example. I am very glad I found your blog and will ad a link to you from mine.

Thanks for the story. It is much like looking in a mirror. :D

Anonymous said...

Adoro - sounds like the day I had. And it never fails - just when I am feeling all clean and virtuous - BAM - down I go like a ton of bricks.

Anonymous said...

Adoro, I know only what our priest says. Having one more in a long line of confessions is not a BOTHER at all. No, maybe you don't HAVE to go to confession, but I would say you could have, and it would not have been a bother at all to your priest. Padre often jokes that he's off to forgive sinners (before he leaves for a penance service here or there), but I know his joke does not make light of the fact that one of the best things he considers about his role as a priest is in granting people forgiveness as he acts as Christ. (Forgive any errors in that wording.) If your day was that bad, even if it was ONLY full of venial sins (hey, that's bad enough!), you could still go to confession. Maybe Father would chastise you, but I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't. I'm pretty sure Jesus would hug you, hold your head in his lap, stroke your brow. And then, when you felt emptied of what had marred your white soul, he would tell you those words you so longed to hear, "I forgive you." Don't ever hesitate to take those graces God leaves there for us, especially those graces that come from confession.

(so hoping that doesn't sound like a big fat "you did the wrong thing." It's really just Sarah rambling on...) :)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I agree with Sarah. There have been times when I've gone to Confession within 24 hours of the last one. You know when you need it.

I think our priests are so happy to see ANYONE in the confessional these days, I doubt they are going to think you are a bother.

Unknown said...

It sounds like Epiphany has some great priests, and many wonderful parishioners, too.

I think I'm going to make it up there for their Feast Day on the 12th Day of Christmas. I bet they do it up right!

Anonymous said...

What Church do you go to? It is hard to find a parish that has confession during the week. I feel luck that I belong to the Cathedral,they have confession daily except for Friday and Sunday. I really wish parishes would have confession on Sunday before Mass.

Anonymous said...

My parish has 3 daily Masses, and confessions after each Mass. So after the 6:30 am, 8 am, and 7 pm Mass.

We also have Confession available on Saturdays after the Saturday am Mass from 9-10, and then again in the afternoon from 4-5 pm.

We are very blessed.

Tonight is the bi-annual mass Confession night with priests available from 1-9 pm.

~ Adoro

Adoro said...

sarah ~

I read your comment today while I was at work...just after I arrived. And you made me cry!

So I went to Confession again tonight. Thanks for the advice, thanks for the way you worded it because if you all hadn't given me the advice you did I wouldn't have gone for that much needed helping of Grace!