Tuesday, June 6, 2017

More From the Enlightened Mind of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich

I've written a few posts on here regarding Bl. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a young 20-something saint who was born, raised and died in New Jersey in the first few decades of the 20th century. An American saint through and through, and I've come to appreciate her even more after reading her biography, written by Sister Mary Zita Geis. I learned many new things about this valuable intercessor of ours, and my devotion to her has certainly grown as I try to figure out how I can attain at least some of the holiness that she exuded throughout her life.

First, I learned that she was certainly a mystic. While the visions she had aren't described in too much detail here, she did experience visions of our Lord and Lady, as well as an interesting encounter with St. Therese, the Little Flower. But most of her experiences seemed to be internal, and in the writings she sent to her spiritual director, he understood that she was definitely receiving spiritual consolations from our Lord such as ecstasies, raptures, visions and locutions.

She also mortified herself daily in many different ways, offering up even the smallest of sufferings to our Lord. For instance, she at times never touched the pew in front of her while kneeling during Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, and when rapt in front of the altar itself, she never let her feet touch the ground as she kneeled before the Blessed Sacrament.

Another interesting tidbit was that she was quite into sports. Particularly, that "boys' game" known as baseball! Of course, baseball is my favorite sport, and to know that she enjoyed playing America's pastime, as well as basketball, makes her same ever more closer despite her nearly unrivaled holiness and submission to God's will. She also took part in Spanish club, as well as drama club and glee club at high school, and performed in and wrote many plays during her high school and college days. Again, this is something still done by many of our high schoolers today. Yet through all these similarities with us Americans today, she was oh so very different. Her piety and desire to conform to God's will is truly an example to us all, and I can't wait to see her become canonized so that all of the United States will properly be able to venerate her as they do St. Elizabeth Ann Seton today.

So in the biography, I came across a couple of her spiritual conferences that were not included in her posthumous book, Greater Perfection. Remember, she wrote these secretly as the rest of he congregation thought that the convent's priest was writing them. Finding these felt like finding a long lost b-side from one of my favorite bands. I'd like to share one of those conferences here, as many of these are hard to find on the Internet, as it certainly moved me, and I hope it does the same for the reader here:
My Dear Sisters:

Now that your retreat is over, I feel that a word of mine will not be inappropriate to help make the fruits of your retreat as lasting as God desires them to be...

A retreat is simply a time when we take account of our spiritual stock- the good and the bad in us, our virtues and failings- in order to see where we stand in the sight of Almighty God. Nor are we any wiser in the matter than the children of this world. What business man is there, however humble his shop and limited to his trade, but finds it necessary at least at the end of every year, if not more frequently, to pause in the midst of his daily rush, and take account of his stock?...

You have taken stock. You have mapped out a plan of action. But the important thing is: follow it. Not only for a day, or a week, or a month, but every day. Yes, until your next annual retreat, no matter what the cost. Is not that what you told God you would do? Of course it is. And with the help of God, of course you are going to do it. There is no question about it. Only be sure of one thing: it will not be an easy job by any means. Nature does not like to have "nay" said to her at any time, and she is certainly going to put up a pretty stiff fight to hold her own. And do not forget you are the one that is going to feel the resentment and resistance of nature, because you and nature are on rather intimate terms with each other. Most intimate, I should say. So close in fact that what hurts her, hurts you. You and your nature are one.

Now the hurt goes quite deeply when somebody else takes a hand in lopping off the dead branches of this tree of self. And the hurt goes deeper when live branches are thus partially or completely lopped off. But note well: the hurt goes deepest when we ourselves are the woodchoppers. And that is what you have resolved to be for the next twelve months- Woodchoppers. And woodchoppers, you know, have to work every day, and work hard, to make their living. If you want results from this retreat, you have to saw wood at the saw today, and another one a week from now, and the third a month later. At that rate the dead timber will be carried along with us into eternity, there to be slowly and painfully consumed in the cleansing fire of purgatory. No, indeed. Your efforts must be constant. It may be easy enough to keep your resolutions the first day or two, and then give up because "you feel," as so many say, "your goodness is wearing off."

That is nonsense, and the devil's own logic. It is simply the sensible fervor you experienced in the course of the spiritual exercises. feelings, in other words. And feelings have nothing whatever to do with advancement in the spiritual life. If feelings of devotion are present, well, thank God for them Who is giving us the lollypop of sweetness to coax us along and make things easier. If feeling are absent, well, thank God for that just the same, and do not make a fuss because the lollypop is gone and you have only the stick to chew on. And thank Him doubly because He is giving you the privilege of proving that your service, your loyalty, is not mere lip service, lip fidelity, but that it comes from the heart of a devoted soldier. Do not act the coward and and turn your back and give up simply because things are a bit hard. that is the very moment to ask Him for help. And He is only too anxious to give it, but it depends on yourself. "Ask and you shall receive." "You shall," God says, and His promises are always sterling, but you have to humble yourself, and confessing your weakness say, "My God, I am awfully weak, and I am going to fall right away unless You help me. Please hold me up. Give me Your hand and help me to do what is right." And I can promise you that you will be victorious every time. it is because we do not ask enough that we do not advance. Ask, and ask, and ask. All you have to do to become a saint is to ask God to make you one; beg Him earnestly, constantly, and especially in times of distress, and His promise always holds good, " you shall receive." And you shall receive exactly according to the measure of your faith in Him and in His word. A look into the Gospels will show us that faith is the one condition on which He bases His works of mercy. To the Canaanite woman He said, "Woman, great is thy faith." And her daughter was made whole at the hour. And to the centurion, who, pleading for the life of his servant, said, "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed". Our Lord in admiration and wonder answered: "Amen, I say to you, I have not found greater faith in Israel. Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee." And from that hour the fever left him. Oh, if we had faith but as a grain of mustard seed we would say to the mountain, "remove hence," an it would so move.

So, too, with the hills and mountains of our failings. We must have absolute confidence in Our Lord. He is going to do the work for us but we must place no obstacle in His path. we must freely submit to His guiding Hand, which will lop off the dead weight from this tree of ourself. beg Him to give you this faith; and when you have done so, ask Him again, and continue asking Him as long as you have breath in your body. he will have to make you a saint if you insist, because He has so pledged His eternal honor and glory.  

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