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

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marriage

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

Designed for Love

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If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat… but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.

– Thomas Merton

I love this quote by Thomas Merton because it gets to the heart of what questions you need to ask if you really want to get to know someone.

Essentially, there are two questions that could be asked; 1. What are you living for? 2. What is keeping you from living fully for the thing you want to live for?

I think these questions are also helpful to get to know myself; to grow in self-knowledge and self-awareness. Also, asking these questions regularly would be a good check up on my soul.

  1. What am I living for? To be united with the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; to be united with God who is Love itself.
  2. What is keeping me from living fully for the thing you want to live for? Myself, my concupiscence, my self-love.

As a Catholic, I believe that I am designed by God for Love; to fall in love with the One who is Love itself, to strive to be united with Love (by relying on God’s superabundant grace) and to eventually be in perfect communion with the Most Holy Trinity. These major landmarks are like courtship and engagement (on Earth and in Purgatory), and marriage (in Heaven) where I am the bride and the Lord is my bridegroom.

I would say that Catholic evangelization… ought to be based upon the Eucharist in which case it’s really about falling in love in stages. It’s sort of like courtship, engagement and marriage.

Dr. Scott Hahn

A passionate love

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The Voice of Christ:

My child, My grace is precious. It does not allow Itself to be mixed with external things or with earthly consolations. Cast away all obstacles to grace, therefore, if you wish to receive Its infusion.

Seek to retire within yourself. Love to dwell alone with yourself. Seek no man’s conversation, but rather pour forth devout prayer to God that you may keep your mind contrite and your heart pure.

Consider the whole world as nothing. Prefer attendance upon God to all outward occupation, for you cannot attend upon Me and at the same time take delight in external things. You must remove yourself from acquaintances and from dear friends, and keep your mind free of all temporal consolation. Thus is blessed Apostle St. Peter begs the faithful of Christ to keep themselves as strangers and pilgrims in the world (1 Peter 2:11).

– Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, Book 3, Section 53

When I read this passage from Thomas a Kempis’ work, Imitation of Christ, one of my first thoughts regarding this section was that some people may think it unnecessarily harsh. This thought was soon followed by the question “why?”. Why would this passage be considered harsh?

It is commonly known that the demand of love is great. As a thought experiment, I tried reading this passage again but this time from a point of view of one lover to another. When I did this I realised that this passage is not harsh at all. Instead, I saw that it describes the requirements of a passionate love; a love desires absolute communion with the other, not out of need or desperation, but out of a sheer willingness to be a gift to the other.

Would we say that it is harsh to expect our spouse’s full attention when we’re out on a ‘date’ night with them? Would we think that it’s too much to ask for our spouse to have their hearts fixed on God and on us instead of desiring other women or pleasures of the earth? I certainly don’t think that it’s too much to ask, rather, it is the demand of love that is tenderly and passionately met.

I (try to) fix my gaze on my Lord first, my husband second, and my children (if I have any) third. Why? Because of a passionate love.

Protect what is intimate

I read Alice von Hildebrand’s beautiful exposition titled ‘Dietrich von Hildebran, Catholic Philosopher, and Christopher West, Modern Entusiast: Two Very Different Approaches to Love, Marriage and Sex‘ recently after it was recommended by Helenka in her blog.

Alice’s article really challenged my views on veiling what is intimate in my life.

The French have a wonderful word to capture the veiling of one’s intimate feelings, out of a proper sense of shame—pudeur, a “holy bashfulness,” so to speak.

– Alice von Hildebrand, Dietrich von Hildebran, Catholic Philosopher, and Christopher West, Modern Entusiast: Two Very Different Approaches to Love, Marriage and Sex

For most of my life, I have been an open book. I rarely ever veil what is intimate in my life. Intimate things such as my spiritual life, my relationship with my husband, etc are things that I never guarded very much at all. In fact, I grasped every opportunity to talk about the intimate with friends.

After reading Alice’s article, I now realise that I was wrong in liberally sharing the intimate things in my life with others.

I am slowly learning, with God’s guidance, to protect what is intimate through prudent silence and modest dress. The mantilla is a wonderful symbol and reminder to veil carefully and with great tenderness what is intimate.

The Little Way

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St Therese is my favourite saint after Our Lady. I love her little way of spiritual childhood. It allows me to be little all the time.

Today my husband reminded me that if I want to imitate St. Therese’s little way, then I also need to be childlike to him. I need to tell him everything I think about, especially if I don’t know how to express it. I need to be like an open book to him so that he has all the information he needs to look after me as best he can.

I read this quote by St. John Chrysostom today and it really reminded me of the attitude my husband has towards me; all he wants is for me to be in heaven.

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Unshakable peace

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Oh boy, I hope one day soon I will be able to imitate St. Therese in her unshakable peace.

Today was not a good day for me. It was one of those days where I just wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear. I’m so grateful my husband pulled me out of that state of mind as soon as possible.

But anyways, I love St Therese’s imagery about the peace that she experiences.

Love and sorrow

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Ah, Lord God, my holy Lover, when You come into my heart, all that is within me will rejoice. You are my glory and the exultation of my heart. You are my hope and refuge in the day of my tribulation. But because my love is as yet weak and my virtue imperfect, I must be strengthened and comforted by You. Visit me often, therefore, and teach me Your holy discipline. Free me from evil passions and cleanse my heart of all disorderly affection so that, healed and purified within, I may be fit to love, strong to suffer, and firm to persevere…

The noble love of Jesus spurs to great deeds and excites longing for that which is more perfect. Love tends upward; it will not be held down by anything low. Love wishes to be free and estranged from all worldly affections, lest its inward sight be obstructed, lest it be entangled in any temporal interest and overcome by adversity…

One who is in love flies, runs, and rejoices; he is free, not bound…

Love is never self-seeking, for in whatever a person seeks himself there he falls from love…

there is no living in love without sorrow. He who is not ready to suffer all things and to stand resigned to the will of the Beloved is not worthy to be called a lover. A lover must embrace willingly all that is difficult and bitter for the sake of the Beloved, and he should not turn away from Him because of adversities.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

In recent times, the Lord has been changing my heart and shaping my soul. In a span of a few very short weeks, my heart and what it desires has been dramatically changed. The progress and change is so quick that I am still adjusting to it.

As my soul is progressively reordered towards God, I feel an increasing sense of loneliness. It is so difficult to express what my soul experiences without the Lord’s help.

As I am changing, I grow to understand my husband more and more. I see with new eyes now. I can now appreciate more fully his wisdom and love of God.

Today I was crying out in sorrow to my Lord Jesus. I felt so lonely to the point of physical pain. My husband knew this and commanded me to go take a walk in the sun to clear my head. I didn’t believe that it would help at the time but I obeyed him anyways. To my great delight, my husband surprised me by joining me.

We took a short 10 minute walk to our Parish which has a tabernacle. The Church was locked so we sat at its gate; it was as close as we could get to the tabernacle which contains the Blessed Sacrament. All the time, my husband spoke to me and engaged me in a loving conversation about matters of God.

I learnt many things today. I learnt that my husband understands me more than I thought he did. I learnt that he loves me beyond my comprehension. I learnt that my purpose as a wife is to push my husband towards God, and his purpose as a husband is to push me towards the Lord. I learnt that I am not alone because we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses in heaven and on earth. Most of all, I am not alone because the Lord is all I need and He will never leave me.

Procrastination

Addiction

In the past few days and especially today, I have been procrastinating turning to God. Instead, I desperately try to substitute the Lord with earthly comforts (wealth, pleasure, honor, power). It doesn’t work of course, no matter how much I wish that it would. I have many years of experience with addiction so I know what it feels like. The scary thing is that I feel the addiction to these earthly comforts coming on.

Being addicted is to not be able to say no even though you want to. It’s the stripping away of freedom, the binding of the will in chains.

I am terrified of addiction. So I try to turn to my Lord and my husband to help me avoid it at all costs.

Restless

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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.

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