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

Month

October 2015

Silence; a means to many ends

I have been reading a few article on silence. I have come across 4 articles so far that I like, however, one in particular by Sister Mary Clare really helped me focus on how silence is a means to many ends.

Sister Mary Clare wrote a long article that takes its readers on a beautiful scenic route. In the end though, I needed to summarise for myself what she says are the 4 ends of God-centered silence.

father-daughter

1. To experience God’s love for us

[Silence] is a form of prayer – a prayer of listening, waiting, and receptivity. It is a prayer that anticipates and expects intimate communion; it believes in the possibility and holds in high esteem the value of being in relationship with God.

– Sister Mary Clare, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

father-and-daughter-time

2. To respond to God’s love for us 

Silence must eventually be sought in the first place as an expression of our total gift of self back to God. It becomes a response of love and an attitude of reverence for the One who has taken the initiative to love us and give Himself to us first.

– Sister Mary Clare

romentic-couple-romance

3. To truly listen 

in order to truly listen [to God and to our neighbour], we must be silent. Do we have the ability to listen in authentic silence without interference from our own prejudice and self interest? Or can I be totally present to the other…totally aware and receptive of what they are bringing to me?

– Sister Mary Clare

girls-having-coffee

4. To transform our speech

What is in the very depths of our hearts is what forms the words on our lips…

If we are to be true imitators of God, faithful to our proper goal of union with Him, we must imitate Him in our words: holy purified and free from sin, free from selfishness, arrogance, vanity, competition and gossip…

How will this transformation of our speech come about? Through silence. In silence, we commune with the One Whose first language is silence. And when we have sufficiently learned this language, we will have facility of speech.

We will no longer speak words that distract, create noise, or vanquish good. Our words will contain in them something of the power of God. They will be words that truly influence others and participate in bringing to completion their redemption and our own. They will be words of healing, growth and love. And they will be spoken at the right moment.

– Sister Mary Clare

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Restless

1-tranquil-dock-scott-mahon

You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

– St. Augustine of Hippo

Recently I have wondered about my restlessness. When I am contemplating God by praying the Rosary, in Adoration, in Mass, I feel at peace, tranquil. When I take my eyes off God, in excessive pursuit of earthly pleasures such as human approval and validation, I lose my peace and become restless.

I have had a growing desire for silence over the past weeks. This desire is of course scary to me because it would require me to sacrifice the earthly pleasures that I so desperately cling on to as substitutes for God. Usually, I’d be able to dismiss this desire quite easily and get on with my day. However, yesterday, my craving and desire for silence became so strong it was uncomfortable and persistent.

I could not put it out of my mind. So I began googling of course. Where else could I go to find preliminary information about this ‘Holy silence’ that kept bugging me? I instinctively named my desire as the desire for ‘Holy silence’ which of course would help with the terms I needed to put into google. The more I read about it, the more certain I was that this is what my heart seemed to be pulled towards. I gave in a little and experimented with entering into the silence. I was blown away with the peace and joy that I found in God’s company while retreating into silence.

I have been discussing with my husband how he would like me to enter into the silence. The permissions that I would have around this approach to life. The discussion is not at its end yet and no decision has been made. So I wait patiently for my husband’s verdict.

Today I entered into the silence under my husband’s command. I remained in silence for 6 hours. It was so intensely joyful and peaceful. Even more than I could ever imagine. I also learnt how much my husband’s dominance over this area of my life meant to me. Sure I could try to enter into the silence on my own but since I am married, I also need the full approval and support of my husband to fully immerse myself in the silence. There is only so far I can immerse myself in silence before I am disobedient to my husband. So I will be patient and wait for my husband’s decision about the protocol regarding silence.

Submission

therese_lisieux 1

There are days where words escape me, where I feel spiritually dry and like I have nothing to offer. No words seem to set my heart alight with love or contemplation. I feel helpless like a little child who is completely reliant on her parents for basic needs like food, drink and shelter.

When I have nothing to offer the Lord but cries of help, I will offer Him this nothing. I want to give all of myself to the Lord and be immersed in Him. And yet I don’t know how to do even this. All I can do is cry out to the Lord and express my desire to submit completely to Him. He will know what to do with me. I will trust Him.

It always amazes me how the divine truths are so TPE in nature. Maybe that’s why I love our TPE so much.

Sometimes I make so many mistakes as a submissive. I feel like I’m no longer capable of submitting even though I want to so badly. So I just throw myself into my husband’s arms and tell him this, that I feel like I have nothing to offer him even though I want so badly to submit. My husband will know what to do with me. He guide me and nurtures me till the dry patch passes. If I can trust him, how much more can I trust the Lord?

‘Story of a Soul’, Chapter 1 – Reflection 2

flower

had I not been brought up by such wonderful parents, I am quite sure I should have gone from bad to worse and probably ended up by losing my soul. But Jesus was watching over His little bride and drew good even out of her faults, for as they were corrected very early, they helped her to grow more and more perfect…

– St. Thérèse of Lisieux, ‘Story of a Soul’, Chapter 1 

How thankful I am for our TPE!

I’m am so grateful to my husband for correcting my faults and nurturing me into the submissive he wants me to be. So grateful that he allows God to use him to nurture your me.

I pray that we will both be able to continue to allow God to work through us to help correct each other’s faults and to encourage each other’s growth.

I saw that one could be a Saint in varying degrees, for we are free to respond to Our Lord’s invitation by doing much or little in our love to Him; to choose, that is, among the sacrifices He asks… I choose everything my God, I do not want to be a Saint by halves, I am not afraid to suffer for Your sake; I only fear doing my own will, so I give it to You and choose everything You will. 

– St. Thérèse of Lisieux, ‘Story of a Soul’, Chapter 1 

I am afraid to suffer. I am afraid of suffering. But I do also fear doing my own will, so I give it to You, Lord, and I want to choose everything You will.

I know that the Lord will help me through suffering. Being afraid of it is something to acknowledge but I offer up that fear to God, I know He knows what to do with it. Feelings are not important, the act of the will is. If I get wet in the storm of feelings it matters little, because I can dry in the sunshine of Love after the storm has passed.

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‘Story of a Soul’, Chapter 1 – Reflection 1

a-garden-of-flowers

Firstly, I want to say that I know in my head that God loves everyone equally. At the same time, I struggle to understand why there is ‘inequality’ in the eyes of the world, and in my eyes too. Some people have more material comforts than others, some attain greater spiritual growth than others, etc.

Reading ‘Story of a Soul’ this morning gave me an answer to this question that goes beyond my expectation. St. Thérèse explains wonderfully why not everyone seems to receive the same degree of grace from the Lord. I am not only satisfied with her explanation, my soul delights now in seeing the beauty in ‘inequality’. The Lord’s ways are not our ways…

For a long time I had wondered why God has preferences, why He did not give the same degree of grace to everyone. 

I was rather surprised that He should pour out such extraordinary graces on great sinners like St. Paul, St. Augustine and so many others, forcing His grace on them, so to speak. I was rather surprised, too when reading the lives of the Saints, to find Our Lord treating certain privileged souls with the greatest tenderness from the cradle to the grave, removing all obstacles from their upward path to Him, and preserving the radiance of their baptismal robe from the stains of sin. Also, I wondered why so many poor [souls] die without even hearing Our Lord’s name.

Jesus chose to enlighten me on this mystery.

He opened the book of nature before me, and I saw that every flower He has created has a beauty of its own, that the splendor of the rose and the lily’s whiteness do not deprive the violet of its scent nor make less ravishing the daisy’s charm. I saw that if every flower wished to be a rose, Nature would lose her spring adornments, and the fields would no longer be enameled with their varied flowers.

So it is in the world of souls, the living garden of the Lord. It pleases Him to create great Saints, who may be compared with the lilies or the rose; but He has also created little ones, who much be content to be daisies or violets, nestling at His feet to delight His eyes when He should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as He wills, the more perfect they are. 

I saw something further: that Our Lord’s love shines out just as much through a little soul who yields completely to His Grace as it does through the greatest. True love is shown in self-abasement, and if everyone were like the saintly doctors who adorn the Church, it would seem that God had not far enough to stoop when he came to them. But He has, in fact, created the child, who knows nothing and can only make feeble cries, and the poor [soul has not heard the Lord’s name], with only the Natural Law to guide him; and it is to hearts such as these that He stoops. 

What delights Him is the simplicity of these flowers of the field, and by stooping so low to them, He shows how infinitely great He is. Just as the sun shines equally on the cedar and the little flower, so the Divine Sun shines equally on everyone, great and small. 

– St. Thérèse of Lisieux, ‘Story of a Soul’, Chapter 1

I want to delight in what the Lord wants me to be, just as I am happy to be shaped into the submissive that my husband wants me to be.

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‘The Story of a Soul’, Prologue – Reflection

Story of a Soul

My dear husband bought this book for me on Book Depository – ‘The Story of a Soul’, The Autobiography of the Little Flower. It arrived for me 2 days ago and I’m so excited to be able to finally savour its contents!

To have beautiful and holy thoughts and to write books or lives of the saints do not count so much as answering as soon as you are called.

– St. Thérèse of Lisieux

The new Thérèse was penetrated with the Gospel teaching, and put it into practice in her daily life. Yet more, she taught the way of spiritual childhood by her words and example to the novices of her Monastery, and she revealed it to all by her writings, which have been spread all over the world and which none can read without returning and re-reading them with great profit

– Pope Pius XI

Already, the prologue of the book, I see Thérèse’s words that reminds me that responding to the Lord’s call is more important than the ability to write or think beautifully.

I see this reflected in my relationship with my dear husband as well; one of the most important things to him is to obey him and the Lord with love and trust. Action speaks louder than words.

I want to choose to prioritize my prayer life over all other aspects of my life. How glad am I then, that every moment can be a prayer!

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Reflections of Love

reflection moon

If God is love, all creation must reflect love. Yet we do not habitually look for these reflections. 

Science’s reductionistic method fails to see cosmic love. Modern science requires the use of the simplest possible explanation. This is the principle called “Occam’s Razor.”

The modern mind always tends to reduce the greater to the lesser rather than seeing the lesser as reflecting the greater…

Premodern thought saw lust as confused love. Modern thought sees love as rationalized lust. This is reductionism.

Christianity is anti-reductionistic…  They know that the universe resembles God rather than vice versa, that God made man in his image rather than vice versa… They know that animal love is a late comer and imitator of perfect, eternal, divine love rather than vice versa.

– Peter Kreeft, ‘Love Sees with New Eyes’

In ‘Love Sees with New Eyes’, Peter Kreeft beautifully explains an idea that I have came across for the first time (and subsequently adopted) when I read Christopher West’s book, ‘Theology of the Body for Beginners’, about a year ago.

The idea is quite simple; creation reflects its creator. Everything we create (eg. our blog posts, our art work) reflect ourselves in some way. In the same way, everything God creates reflects God and spiritual physics.

Many great philosophers (eg. Saint John Paul II) have written books about this idea (that creation reflects its creator) because so many gems can be gleaned by reflecting on this concept.

I am not a philosopher, nor do I want to be, so in my little way I will reflect on how this idea has enriched my life in ways I did not imagine possible.

Just married couple, holding hands and walking in nature

My dear husband (also Catholic) and I have centered our marriage around Ephesians 5:22-33 (RSV). In living out our marriage in this way, with a prayerful heart, points me to the truth about God and has helped me make progress in my spiritual life. And of course growth in my spiritual life leads to a transformation of my mental and emotional responses to things.

The dynamic of my marriage is that of a total power exchange. I will not quote definitions here because the term means slightly different things to different people. Instead, I will explain what I mean by ‘total power exchange (TPE)’.

In our TPE, I cede all authority to my husband in all things. He makes decisions in my best interests because he loves me. He asks me to do something, and I obey. Of course I still share my opinions with him about decisions that he has to make, but ultimately it is he who makes the decision, it is me who obeys, and it is us that will work through any mistakes we make along the way.

As the submissive in this TPE, I am able to practice trusting and surrendering 24/7 to my husband. This in turn helps me trust and surrender in the Lord as like a child. In my mind, our TPE is the dress rehearsal, and my spiritual life is the main performance.

Wives be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its Saviour. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body. 

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-33 (RSV)

I pray that the Lord will guide my soul to recognise His reflection in His creation.

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Childlike

father picking up kid

To remain a child before God means to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God. It is not to become discouraged over our failings, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much.

– St. Thérèse of Lisieux

St. Thérèse of Lisieux is my favourite saint! She feeds my little 🙂 

In recent times I have found that while I understood what I need to do, namely trust in the Lord, I have failed many times to do so. This is not because the Lord has withdrawn his grace or refused me help when I needed it. It happens because I didn’t keep my eyes fixed on Him, wanted to do things my own way and/or refused his help (like a rebellious kid). I think that God waits patiently for me while I am rebellious, always ready to immediately pick me up again when I fall and do accept his help.

I want to choose to be the sinner who keeps trying and doesn’t get discouraged because ‘children fall often’.

Pride

Humble-and-Gentle-Jesus

Recently, I have had a bit of a struggle with pride.

Semantics… I could quote a dictionary on what pride is here. But I believe that words mean different things to different people. And a dictionary is like history records, written by the people who have the right influence to do so.

So what I mean by ‘pride’ is rooting my self-worth in my own ego. This is in contrast to what I think of ‘humility’ which is to ground my self-worth in the Lord, in the fact that I am loved into existence by God.

Why do I become proud? Because I do not trust that the Lord knows best. I don’t trust that I am loved infinitely by Him. So I turn to my own ego to justify my self-worth. I try to fill that God shaped hole with 4 broad categories, Wealth, Honor, Pleasure and Power.

As a consequence of being proud, I am insecure and self-centered (instead of being secure in God, and God-centered). If someone gets more money, that means there’s less money going to me. If someone gets more Honor (or attention), then there’s less of that attention going to me. If someone else gets more pleasure, then I am missing out on some. If someone gets more power, I am getting less power.

“One of the most fundamental problems in the spiritual order is that we sense within ourselves the hunger for God, but we attempt to satisfy it with some created good that is less than God. Thomas Aquinas said that the four typical substitutes for God are wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. Sensing the void within, we attempt to fill it up with some combination of these four things, but only by emptying out the self in love can we make the space for God to fill us. The classical tradition referred to this errant desire as “concupiscence,” but I believe that we could neatly express the same idea with the more contemporary term “addiction.” When we try to satisfy the hunger for God with something less than God, we will naturally be frustrated, and then in our frustration, we will convince ourselves that we need more of that finite good, so we will struggle to achieve it, only to find ourselves again, necessarily, dissatisfied. At this point, a sort of spiritual panic sets in, and we can find ourselves turning obsessively around this creaturely good that can never in principle make us happy.”
― Bishop Robert E. Barron

I think being proud was the reason why my mental state was bit unsettled yesterday when I had to read 2 very unpleasant emails from an individual who accused me of things that I hadn’t done. She wasn’t even someone I cared about. But the thing is when she was falsely accusing me, I felt that my honor was being threatened. So I emailed back to defend myself, being very intentionally passive aggressive. I tried to fight for my honor back. And of course I got an email in reply with more false accusations and also a notification that my account in her online community will be removed. When she said this I felt like she had the upper hand, she had more power than me in this situation. And so, in being proud, I felt like I was losing out in the power game. This interaction really upset my normally calm internal thoughts and mental state in a way that I couldn’t understand until a day later as I’m writing out this post.

I now realise that if I had remained humble (grounded in God) yesterday and not become proud (insecure), I would have quite possible avoided all that inner unrest.

In fact, I remember my husband saying to me (after I showed him the unplesant email and my reply that I had already sent) that in the future if I receive any unpleasant emails, I need to show them to him first and construct a reply under his guidance.

My husband is someone who is often more humble than I am, more trusting in God than I am, so his replies to unpleasantness is usually very kind. If I had turned to his guidance, I might have been able to reply her in a way that will disrupt the fight between us for honor and power. But at the very least I would have, under my husband’s guidance and God’s help, consciously chosen the humble path instead of the proud one.

I want to chose to trust as a child in the Lord and to trust in my husband in helping me to be humble, to ground myself in my God. To be able to sing, as Audrey does, “When I taste Your goodness I shall not want”.

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

No, I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

Audrey Assad‘I shall not want’

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