Friday, March 11, 2016

Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich on Sanctification During Spiritual Desolation

I finally finished reading Blessed Miriam's Greater Perfection recently, and I was constantly amazed at how engaging, timely and penetrating her writings are. All this from a young twenty-something nun from new Jersey. I don't know why I can't get over that. It must be because we are so close in age right now, and she was able to intelligently pick apart the worst parts of the human condition, and then peel them back to reveal the inherent goodness in each person. The inherent ability we all have to live for God's Will and His alone. The writing in particular I would like to share today may remind some of St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul. Basically, Blessed Miriam is telling us what we can do when we suffer that loneliness, that spiritual desolation when we think that Christ is far away, and is "asleep. Again, please visit the website of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth to learn more about this great intercessor in heaven and to purchase her writings across several different books. Her writing style and content is very thought provoking, to say the least. Here's a little bit from her spiritual conference on how to find sanctification in our lives even when we think we aren't necessarily feeling God's presence around us:
Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich

"When Jesus is present all is well, and nothing seems difficult" sings the author of the Imitation Such, then, is the general condition of the sol when God seems near or awake... There is a great stirring-up of the emotions and a consequent jubilation of spirit- a jubilation mostly, animal, though. It is sunshine all the time. We now realize- or rather we think we realize- how good we are, and how holy! At Mass and Communion our devotion is rather perfect. We feel- not that we care to confess this feeling, or even to admit an examination at this point, but it is there just the same- that we have really served the Lord manfully, have done something really worthwhile and at last as it should be done- from our point of view- and for which- ad this is the tenderest spot of all and most secret- God is almost under an obligation to us.

You object that this is not so? I will prove it. We have been acting thus for a good while, and we are also begging God for a favor. Somehow or other He has not granted it, and there are no indications that He intends answering our petitions in a hurry. What happens? We pout. "Here I have been trying to be so good, and I have been, is it not so, Lord? Now when I want something, You will not give it to me." Then we begin to think- the devil is in our ear- "Oh, what is the use! Sanctity was never meant for me. I have tried it, and I have not succeeded. I fear someone does not know what he is talking about. I might just as well stop, and let things take their course. As long as I get to heaven, I will be safe..." All this was just to illustrate that we actually, unknown to ourselves, feel that God is under an obligation to us for the miserable rags of good- not goods- that we do.

..."But when Jesus is absent," continues Thomas of Kempis, "everything is hard." Such is the general condition of the soul when God seems far away or asleep. it is absolutely detestable to hear the first strokes of the rising bell. It is rather hard to distinguish the voice of God in those harsh clangs...

Mass begins. How it drags! (God forgive us!) Were we ever at Mass before? How unintelligible it all is! The Host is uplifted. "My Lord and my God". We say the words mechanically. Are we stupid, or simply in a stupor? The Host is laid on our tongue. We swallow It. Our thoughts are far away. We kneel. Our knees are leaden. And so is our head. Did we really receive God?
...We go to our work. Were we ever told to do anything that was really to our liking? And- pardon me- we are not very gentle in doing things. We just do not care. "Let them know it." A dish,, or a book, or a desk-top, carelessly handled, reveals to others our inward sentiments...
Thomas a Kempis

We examine our conscience. yes, we have been impatient, and angry, and sullen, and resentful, and uncharitable, and-. "Lord, I'm sorry."- Stop a minute, though, and dig down into the cause of these faults. Ah, but we did not. That is one reason why we are not yet saints. If we did dig down, they would not happen so often, and after a short time they would hardly happen at all.

What was the real difficulty? We failed to submit to God's providence. We failed to be resigned to His will that had been marked out for us. Why? "...but He was asleep" (Matt. 8:24). God withdrew the consolation, the sensible fervor we had yesterday, to see how we would act.

...this is only a small troubling of the waters of the soul. what of the time when the storms of temptation and doubt and painful anxiety blow up strongly? Blow up they certainly shall for everyone who follows in the wake of the Master. The more earnest, the more persevering, the more intimate the following, the darker, the fiercer the tribulation of the winds and waves. What happens then? There is nothing to fear; there is all the more cause for confidence, for the Master is in the boat, and He knows the condition of the sea, and is therefore permitting it- "But He is asleep". What are we going to do?

...Just because distractions are thick and heavy, duties irksome, spiritual exercises abhorrent, commands distasteful, temptations foul and plentiful, prayer is a thing from which to run away...- just because these signs of tribulation make known to us the distress of the soul is no reason for throwing up our hands in despair and thinking ourselves on the road to perdition. The game is not lost. This is the very time to be most punctual and exact in the last details of rule and custom, to be most punctual and exact to the commands of superiors, and to the interior practices which we formerly followed. Why? it is the golden hour of spiritual progress, more precious to the soul than days of consolation. But how is this? God is testing the soul to discover whether it love Him for Himself or for His gifts. That he must know before He can admit it further into the garden of delights which is Himself. He wants to find out whether the soul's love is a selfish love, or a pure love. The way we act under fire tells Him all. remember we love God with the will, not with the feelings.

...But how are we to persist when the desolation lasts not one day but a week, not two weeks but perhaps months, not one year but five or more- God only knows how many- with very little consolation in between? With God all things are possible. And God is with us within us. St. Teresa says that God and I are a majority. This is infallibly true. We must expect that the darkness is going to last longer, much longer than the sunshine. We are here to be purged, refined, made Godlike. And the more there is to be cast out, the more exalted the degree of union we shall with God's all-powerful grace attain, the longer and more soul-searching will the cleansing be. There is nothing to fear, for He Who has overcome the world is at our right hand, His arm around us.

...We, too, are prone to worry too much about our spiritual progress, and we are prone to worry too little. Too much in this sense: we begin manfully to serve the Lord, and when He falls asleep... we begin to fret and fume and get harassed and perplexed and make difficulties for ourselves a thousand times more numerous than the Lord ever intended. We want to know why this distraction persists, and where it came from; what we ever did in the past to be tempted in this fashion... All this shows a lack of confidence and trust in God. There is no need to let our imagination run away with us just because we are undergoing interior anguish.

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee- Pieter Brueghel the Younger
Let us look at the problem as though it were the case of someone else. Have I really tried to put out the distractions as best I could? Yes. Very well! Am I responsible for them through curiosity of the yes, ears, mind, tongue? No. That is good. Have I played or trifled with the temptations? Goodness, no! Have I paved the way for them by placing myself in the occasion of sin of grave imperfection? No, I have not. When I realized my tepidity and dulness and want of attention at spiritual exercises, did I tell God I was sorry, and ask Him to help me to improve? Yes. Excellent. You have been serving Him with all the strength of your being and He is delighted. "Oh, but I feel so unhappy and discontented!" That is well. That is just where the shoe pinches. Are you serving God for Himself or for His gifts? "For Himself." Are you certain? Then why the secret sensitiveness which you do not like to confess even to yourself? That is just what he is trying to kill. Tell him "thank you" for letting you see it, and promise to help Him in the work. That is the way to get ahead- to work with Him. But face the truth squarely.

I said a moment ago that we are apt to complain to our Lord about this chastisement. Is it wrong to do so? Oh, no. But it is rather imperfect love. Does a mother complain to her child of all the sufferings she has endured out of love for it? To her they all seem as nothing, and she is willing to endure others a thousandfold more severe. Her love is self-forgetful, generous, and pure. She has her child in mind, not herself. And the love a mother bears her child is but a faint shadow of the love wherewith we should love the Beloved of opur soul. Instead of complaints and murmurs, He should hear from our lips an unending "Deo Gratias" and "Gloria." Why should He not? We do not realize the wonderful privilege it is to be the very least menial in the house of this great King,. But to be chosen to be His spouse! He has a right to expect us to console Him,. It is the place of the bride to hide her griefs and lighten the burden of the bridegroom. When the heavenly Bridegroom, Who sees all, perceives how selflessly His bride is seeking His good pleasure alone, what can he do but to incline towards her with an outpouring of excessive love? oh, if we only could learn to think of Him always, and forget our miserable, worthless self!

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