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"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." – Luke 2:19 (RSV)

Cardinal virtues: Temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice

flower

Today my husband and I attended a beautiful talk on parenting. Many useful and beneficial things were presented. What struck me the most is the idea that the 4 cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice are not abstract ideas of the past but very concrete guiding values in life. The speaker asserts that if we can pass these 4 cardinal virtues on to our children then they will have a strong foundation for their progress in holiness, which is the primary purpose in life.

The way that the speaker explained what the 4 cardinal virtues meant was so easy to understand that I really gravitated towards it and have been thinking a lot of it.

To have temperance is to appropriately manage the desire for pleasure. To have fortitude is to appropriately manage fear. To be prudent is to love what should be loved. To be just is to act according to the demand of love.

I have been struggling a lot with these 4 cardinal virtues. One of the reasons is because I didn’t really know what they meant even though I knew that they were really important things. Now that I have a better understanding of them, I think I have more concrete goals to work towards.

Veiling what is precious

It’s been a couple weeks/months since I started dressing modestly and since I started veiling during Holy Mass.

Since then, I have grown to recognize that I feel safer when I dress modestly. Not only this, I have begun to grow in respect of my own private and intimate sphere and have started to guard this in the way I speak, act, and dress. I have noticed that I am learning more and more how precious I am as a human being and also how precious all human beings are in the eyes of God. I begin to approach others with more respect and reverence.

That dressing modestly and veiling during Mass has such profound effects on my perception of myself and perception of others is so unexpected to me.

The message that I am really starting to understand more and more is that just as sacred things during Mass are veiled (eg. the tabernacle veils the consecrated hosts), every human being who were, are and will be loved into existence by God should be veiled as well not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

States of being vs. emotions

St Therese glide

I’ve recently come to realize that inner peace and joy are independent of the emotions that I experience. What I mean to say is that nowadays, I seem to be in a state of inner peace and joy regardless of the emotions that I experience. Being sad doesn’t take away from the joy that I feel. Likewise, being happy doesn’t add to to joy that I feel. I feel like I’m standing on an island of peace and joy while I watch with (mild) detachment as the waters of emotions swirl around me.

What does effect the inner peace and joy that I feel is my spiritual life. Relying more on the Lord adds to the peace and joy that I enjoy. Likewise, relying more on myself instead of on the Lord takes away from my inner peace and joy.

I think that to be fully alive is to live with a peace and joy that is as pervading, consuming and deep as the Lord has designed it to be. To be fully alive is to be absolutely free to love the Lord with my heart, my mind, and my soul.

For now, I’m not yet fully alive. I’m stumbling in the dark and tripping over my own vanity and pride. So, I ask the Lord to hold my hand and never let go. He alone can form me and teach me the freedom to love Him with all of my being.

Burdens

our lady perpetual help

I’m not sure how to respond to my emotions; a mix of nervousness, anxiety and sorrow.

I have come across an idea that you can observe your emotions as a relatively detached observer rather than being swept up in them. While this has helped me to reduce the importance that I place on my emotional experiences, I still experience my emotions with equal intensity. Needless to say, this is very uncomfortable when the emotions are unpleasant.

Another idea that I have come across is the ideal of not being attached to good feelings. This has helped me to not stress and worry about being happy all the time and having pleasant emotional experiences all the time. But as i said before, the intensity of my unpleasant emotions are not diminished by this idea.

Another idea that I subscribe to is to bear patiently with the unpleasant emotions, offering them up to God. This has helped me to wait out the unpleasant times and also make meaning out of my suffering.

What I really struggle with however, is how to be fully alive during my experiences of unpleasant emotions; particularly the emotions of sorrow and anxiety.

Sometimes, I want to cry my heart out or just lie in bed all day. But hold myself back from doing these things because I don’t want to cause my husband to experience unpleasant emotions himself (pity and sadness I imagine).

Other times, I want to avoid the circumstances that are stimulating my anxiety (chiefly going into the CBD or taking public transport).

What does help me to bear with the unpleasant emotions is to engage in study or to immerse myself into things of God (eg. spiritual reading, DVD programs, movies about the Saints, praying, etc.).

If I don’t do any of the things I mentioned above, my heart feels more and more consumed by sorrow and anxiety and I feel like I’m imploding.

These are a few of my favourite things

When I’m down, I like to think/do things that give me comfort/pleasure. Doing these things don’t help with my low mood but they do give me small measures of joy that I cling to until my mood ‘normalizes again.

So, these are a few of my favourite things (in no particular order, just off the top of my head)…
1. The Sound of Music
2. Dutch braid crowns
3. Ribbons in dutch braid crowns
4. A good Roman Catholic book
5. Gregorian chants
6. The Blessed Sacrament (in tabernacles, during Holy Mass, during Eucharistic adoration)
7. Latin (such a beautiful language)
8. Mantillas (chapel veils. esp the lace ones.)
9. Lots of cuddles and tender kisses
10. Praying the Rosary

Gathering roses in the midst of thorns

rose

Yes, my Beloved, it is thus that my life’s brief day shall be spent before Thee. No other means have I of proving my love than to strew flowers; that is, to let no little sacrifice escape me, not a look, not a word, to avail of the very least actions and do them for Love. I wish to suffer for Love’s sake and for Love’s sake even to rejoice; thus shall I strew flowers. Not one shall I find without shedding its petals for Thee…and then I will sing, I will always sing, even if I must gather my roses in the very midst of thorns – and the longer and sharper the thorns the sweeter shall be my song.

St Therese, Story of A Soul, Chapter XI

The demands of love are incredibly challenging. So I seek the Lord’s aid for without His Majesty I can do nothing of merit. To love is to sacrifice for the good of the other. The greater the sacrifice, the deeper and sweeter the love. The deed doesn’t matter as much. A smile that costs one much proves a greater love than great deeds that costs one little.

When I am feeling down, smiling costs me much. So I strive to choose to smile especially in troubled times. The longer and sharper the thorns, the sweeter my song shall be.

The Real Presence of our Blessed Lord

Holy Mass.jpg

Who, indeed, can humbly approach the fountain of sweetness and not carry away a little of it? Or who, standing before a blazing fire does not feel some of its heat? You are a fountain always filled with superabundance! You are a fire, ever burning, that never fails! 

Therefore, while I may not exhaust the fullness of the fountain or drink to satiety, yet will I put my lips to the mouth of this heavenly stream that from it I may receive at least some small drop to refresh my thirst and not wither away. And if I cannot as yet be all heavenly or as full of fire as the cherubim and seraphim, yet I will try to become more devout and prepare my heart so that I may gather some small spark of divine fire from the humble reception of this life-giving Sacrament.

Whatever is wanting in me, good Jesus, Savior most holy, do You in Your kindness and grace supply for me, You Who have been pleased to call all unto You, saying: “Come to Me all you that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you.”

I, indeed, labor in the sweat of my brow. I am torn with sorrow of heart. I am laden with sin, troubled with temptations, enmeshed and oppressed by many evil passions, and there is none to help me, none to deliver and save me but You, my Lord God and Savior, to Whom I entrust myself and all I have, that You may protect me and lead me to eternal life. For the honor and glory of Your name receive me, You Who have prepared Your Body and Blood as food and drink for me. Grant, O Lord, my God and Savior, that by approaching Your Mysteries frequently, the zeal of my devotion may increase.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Recently, I have been reflecting on what it means to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament either exposed or hidden in the tabernacle, and what it means to receive Holy Communion. As a Catholic, I believe that the consecrated hosts are literally our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This has really profound implications.

What this means is that our Blessed Lord is literally and physically present in every Church that has a tabernacle that contains consecrated hosts. What this means is that in Eucharistic Adoration, our Blessed Lord is literally and physically exposed to us just a few meters away from us. What this means is that when I receive Holy Communion, I am receiving through my mouth very literally the physical Body and Blood of our Blessed Lord along with His Soul and Divinity.

The more I think about the implications of this doctrine, the more I realise that we can never be too reverent in celebrating Holy Mass, we can never be too reverent in Eucharistic Adoration, we can never be too reverent in receiving Holy Communion, and we can never be too reverent when we step into a Catholic Church that has a tabernacle that contains the consecrated hosts.

All the genuflecting, kneeling, and veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament are forms of showing reverence to our Blessed Lord. At this point then, I am not bothered by what people think about me veiling in the presence of our Blessed Lord in the most Holy Sacrament. Let people think what they want. Meanwhile, I will do everything that I can to show reverence to my Blessed Lord, King of the Universe, the One who Is.

Boredom is a spiritual problem

Pope Francis saints.png

True obedience to the infallible teachings of the Catholic Church on faith and morals, does not make one rigid or oppressed, but faithful and free. Yes, free, in the same way that the bird is free to fly in the sky above because it obeys the laws of aerodynamics.

womb and the cloud

Dr. Peter Kreeft said in one of his presentations that “boredom is a spiritual problem”. I agree with him.

I have noticed that before my conversion a couple of months ago (when I read ‘a Story of a Soul’), I was very frequently bored. Sure, the demands of medical school filled my time but once I got free time to myself, I was more often than not bored. It wasn’t that I didn’t do anything with my free time, I often spent it in entertaining myself with movies and books, with learning a new language or playing games with my husband. Without our Blessed Lord as the center of my life, all these earthly pleasure tasted like ash in my mouth. While my pursuit of pleasure was enjoyable it wasn’t fulfilling and the restlessness of my heart never went away.

After my conversion, I have been increasingly striving to become a saint (not necessarily a formally recognized one, recognition by the Church doesn’t mean anything to me). This means that I accept as my vocation the journey of sanctification, to be united with our Blessed Lord, for that is what we are designed for. Since that day, the only boring moments that I experience are those times where I take my eyes of our Blessed Lord and turn my gaze back towards myself.

Ever since I met God I wasn’t able to enjoy my favorite things in the same way. Before I knew God, they were everything to me. They were all I had. But now they were no longer ends in themselves, but pleasant occupations along a journey to a bigger destination.

– Sr. Helena Burns

Accepting the journey of sanctification as my vocation has been such a great adventure that is always interesting and captivating and not at all boring. Boredom only comes when I turn towards my own ego and away from Christ.

I think that boredom in this life is a foretaste of hell where souls are eternally bored and possibly driven mad by it.

 

 

Vanity

St Elizabeth Ann Seton
St Elizabeth Ann Seton

During Mass today I really struggled with vanity. I usually do struggle with vanity but today was particularly difficult for me. I was so devastated that my vanity caused me to not be able to place my mind and heart before God during Mass. I felt sorrow because of this; like the sorrow of being too preoccupied with something else to really engage with my husband in conversation but amplified.

In a way, I am thankful that I had this experience today. It is a really sobering reminder that I can’t place my trust in myself, only in God; that without God, I have no virtues and all my merits come from God.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, pray for us.

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