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

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grace

The spiritual battle

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The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2729

I have been noticing that even during Holy Mass, the most powerful prayer available to us, I am distracted. Some days are better than other of course but distraction is usually present. I admit that I have fallen into the ‘trap’ of trying to hunt down these distractions with the intention of getting rid of them on my own. What I have discovered is that this never works. What does work is when I turn my heart back to the Lord and offer Him my heart to be purified. The more I pray, the more I realise that I can do nothing good on my own. Instead I have to rely on the Lord’s strength alone and forget myself on the journey towards sanctification.

How extremely necessary to me, O Lord, Your grace is to begin any good deed, to carry it on and bring it to completion! For without grace I can do nothing, but with its strength I can do all things in You…

Let me find grace in Your sight, I beg, Lord, for Your grace is enough for me, even though I obtain none of the things which nature desires. If I am tempted and afflicted with many tribulations, I will fear no evils while Your grace is with me. This is my strength. This will give me counsel and help. This is more powerful than all my enemies and wiser than all the wise. This is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline, the light of the heart, the consoler in anguish, the banisher of sorrow, the expeller of fear, the nourisher of devotion, the producer of tears. What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?

Let Your grace, therefore, go before me and follow me, O Lord, and make me always intent upon good works, through Jesus Christ, Your Son.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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Humility and submission

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Nature is not willing to die, or to be kept down, or to be overcome. Nor will it subdue itself or be made subject.

Grace, on the contrary, strives for mortification of self. She resists sensuality, seeks to be in subjection, longs to be conquered, has no wish to use her own liberty, loves to be held under discipline, and does not desire to rule over anyone, but wishes rather to live, to stand, and to be always under God for Whose sake she is willing to bow humbly to every human creature.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

I have recently read ‘The Different Motions of Nature and Grace‘ by Thomas a Kempis in his work ‘The Imitation of Christ‘. While Thomas a Kempis wrote about the topic in paragraph form, I wanted to put what he wrote into a table for future reference.

My dear husband loves the idea as well and asked me to print out the table so that the next time I behave badly I can identify which aspect of ‘Nature’ I gave in to and what the corresponding aspect of ‘Grace’ is. I like this idea a lot because it makes identifying the source of and antidote to my ‘problem behaviour’ so much easier! The purpose of this is course is to work towards sanctification. What I’ve come to realize is that self-knowledge is crucial to progressing in holiness. It is when I’m aware of my sins and my weaknesses that I’m able to ask God for help and to accept the Lord’s aid.

Today, I want to reflect on one aspect of ‘Nature’ and the corresponding aspect of ‘Grace’ (see the quote above). There have been many times in my life where I was not ‘willing to die’ or ‘be made subject’. Daily I struggle with this. When I see that Mum needs help, I experience a desire to hide away somewhere else and engage in activities that give me more pleasure. Or, when my husband asks me to fetch him a drink, I feel bitter for ‘having’ to serve. With this in mind, I try to remember the antidote to this aspect of ‘Nature’; to ‘resist sensuality, seek to be in subjection, long to be conquered,’ to not ‘wish to use my own liberty’, to ‘love to be held under discipline’, and most importantly, ‘to live, to stand, and to be always under God for Whose sake I am willing to bow humbly to every human creature’. Of course, this is only possible by God’s grace.

I want to have the freedom for excellence to love my Lord with all my being! And so I love the laws of the Lord and the rules that my husband puts in place that help me on the road to sanctification.

For the freedom of indifference, objective rules, orders, and disciplines are problematic, for they are felt, necessarily, as limitations. But for the second type of freedom (the freedom for excellence), such laws are liberating, for they make the achievement of some great good possible.

– Bishop Robert Barron

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