Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Profound and Beautiful Writings of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich

A little over two months ago, I learned of a great American saint who I have begun to have a devotion to. Her name is Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, and she lived in New Jersey for nearly all of her short life. I wrote a little bit about her and the book her Spiritual Conferences were compiled in, entitled Greater Perfection. I finally decided to purchase the book after seeing a local pastor talk about it and read from it during a homily one Sunday, and all I can say is... WOW.

OK, I can say a lot more than that obviously. However my jaw all but hit the floor when I read these writings that came from a mild-mannered, twenty-something nun in New Jersey. Someone who was just a few years younger than I at the time these conferences were written. I'm almost halfway through the book now, and I can't get over how relevant her writings are to today; how elegant and clear her manner of writing is. After reading a lot of apologetic and theological material lately, it's really nice to read something so edifying to spirituality. I have to say, she is definitely inspiring me to do more, and I sincerely hope that that inspiration stays alive in me for quite some time. Because she makes it clear that coming to "greater perfection" isn't for the weary. If you want to be challenged in your spiritual life, this is the book for you. It has an Imprimatur and a Nihil Obstat, and she begins writing about how one can become sanctified, gets into the efficacy of the Sacraments, and into the disposition of prayer and how to enter into a deeper state of meditation during prayer. I'm definitely excited to get into some of these later chapters; this makes me look forward to yet another three day weekend where I can get some reading time.
Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich
As I haven't seen too many of her writings on the Web, I wanted to post the following selection from her conference on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This is one of many things that has made me pause and stop to think; something that I've had to re-read so as to let it sink in. Reading it, I became aware of how I have had this thought process in my life... and I now hope to forever rid myself of that mentality. If you find what you've read interesting, please consider visiting the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth's website and ordering a copy:
"We all understand very well that the only sins one need confess and must confess are mortal sins: that mortal sin alone constitutes the necessary matter of confession. The Church has clearly defined, however, that it is a good and useful practice, especially for those who aim at conforming themselves more perfectly to the image of the Creator, to the life of Christ, to resort to this sacrament frequently, even though venial sin be the only subject of accusation...
 "Here, then, we have the case of a religious [or, person aspiring to be a saint] who has been going to confession week after week, for many years- five, ten, fifteen, twenty, and as many more as necessary. God has held out to him grace upon grace, and yet in His sight, and even in that of thoughtful men, there is no proportionate increase in virtue; in fact, he seems to be and is in a worse state than at the beginning of his religious life. What is the trouble? The sacrament is of Divine institution; it is God who forgives, who gives the increase of grace; therefore, the trouble must be, and certainly is, with the soul. It is just this: he presents himself week after week before Christ, his Judge, with improper dispositions, which, through force of habit, have virtually become no dispositions at all, and hence not only prevent that outpouring of grace with which Christ wills to flood his soul, but in some cases it may even happen that, as a result of continued deliberate indifference, he may be in a certain measure guilty of sacrilege. And the pity of the trouble is- "It's only a venial sin." Only a venial sin! Ah, if we looked at the matter from God's point of view rather than from our own, we should be forced to say in all truth: "It's all of a venial sin." We have no idea of the malice of sin, and therefore we go on our way cheerfully piling up insult after insult to God, and heaping up for ourselves mountains of fuel to be consumed in the weary, slow-burning fire of purgatory. If only we had that clear knowledge of the evil of sin which the saints had...
"Why are we so indifferent to the great danger and real harm of venial sin? Why? Because as long as we keep out of hell we are satisfied; that is, as long as we know we will not suffer eternally. "It is only a venial sin." Yes, I am still a friend of God. But just what kind of friend am I? I wonder if it is one He is pleased to acknowledge? Remember his words: "I will not now call you servants... but I have called you friends" (Jn 15: 15). When I deliberately commit a venial sin with the idea, "It's only a venial sin," which is the same as saying, "There is no eternal punishment attached," am I seeking God, or am I seeking myself? Not God, surely. If I were, I would take care not to do anything that would offend Him in the least. No, I am seeking myself. I am looking to see just how far I can allow myself forbidden liberties and pleasures, without straining my relations with God to the breaking point, and running the risk of being hurt in punishment for all eternity. I do not like pain. I am afraid of suffering. But just the same, I will indulge myself this once today. I will go just so far in gratifying my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my taste, my mind, my imagination, my temper, but I will go no farther. Just this once today. Tomorrow is the same story. And the day after. only it is more than once, and the number of falls goes on increasing daily. Some day, one of these horses, through our gradually relaxing hold, will break the reins, and rush us madly, much farther than we ever expected or intended to go, down the length of the infernal precipice, to the foul abyss below. And all because "It's only a venial sin." Nor is this another exaggeration. History affords us only too many instances. Luther did not become a heretic over night, nor Judas a deicide, neither was Peter's denial the result of momentary weakness. No. All these betrayals had their origin in scarcely perceptible beginnings. And because the shadow of sin was not persistently dispelled, the storm of passion eventually broke in all its fury...
The Confession- Pietro Longhi
"And this is why the soul that habitually says, "It's only a venial sin," cannot have sincere contrition, because of its affection for the evil. If the will embraces the evil, and it certainly does, because it finds repeated delight in it, it cannot at the same time embrace the opposite good, namely, God. It may at the moment of confession try to do so in a irresolute, half-hearted manner. And since it is impossible for a soul, while continuing in this state, to elicit an act of perfect contrition, it's contrition is thus necessarily imperfect.
"...remember, it is impossible for a soul who makes a constant and proper use of the sacrament of Penance not to advance in perfection... again, the whole question of perfection may be resolved thus: To conform myself to the image of my Beloved, Christ Jesus, I need but to will so to do. That will, however, shall not and cannot rely on its own strength; it can effectively act only through the strengthening power of grace, poured in great abundance on those who seek it in this holy sacrament of penance."

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