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

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submission

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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The Different Motions of Nature and Grace

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The Imitation of Christ. Book Three. Internal Consolation (cont). 54. The Different Motions of Nature and Grace.

The Voice of Christ
My child, pay careful attention to the movements of nature and of grace, for they move in very contrary and subtle ways, and can scarcely be distinguished by anyone except a man who is spiritual and inwardly enlightened. All men, indeed, desire what is good, and strive for what is good in their words and deeds. For this reason the appearance of good deceives many…

This grace is a supernatural light, a certain special gift of God, the proper mark of the elect and the pledge of everlasting salvation. It raises man up from earthly things to love the things of heaven. It makes a spiritual man of a carnal one.

The more, then, nature is held in check and conquered, the more grace is given. Every day the interior man is reformed by new visitations according to the image of God.

Nature Grace
Crafty and attracts many, ensnaring and deceiving them while ever seeking itself. Walks in simplicity, turns away from all appearance of evil, offers no deceits, and does all purely for God in whom she rests as her last end.
Not willing to die, or to be kept down, or to be overcome. Nor will it subdue itself or be made subject. 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.
Works for its own interest and looks to the profit it can reap from another. Does not consider what is useful and advantageous to herself, but rather what is profitable to many.
Likes to receive honor and reverence. Faithfully attributes all honor and glory to God.
Fears shame and contempt. Happy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.
Loves ease and physical rest. Cannot bear to be idle and embraces labor willingly.
Seeks to possess what is rare and beautiful, abhorring things that are cheap and coarse. Delights in simple, humble things, not despising those that are rough, nor refusing to be clothed in old garments.
Has regard for temporal wealth and rejoices in earthly gains. It is sad over a loss and irritated by a slight, injurious word. Looks to eternal things and does not cling to those which are temporal, being neither disturbed at loss nor angered by hard words, because she has placed her treasure and joy in heaven where nothing is lost.
Is covetous, and receives more willingly than it gives. It loves to have its own private possessions. Is kind and openhearted. Grace shuns private interest, is contented with little, and judges it more blessed to give than to receive.
Is inclined toward creatures, toward its own flesh, toward vanities, and toward running about. Draws near to God and to virtue, renounces creatures, hates the desires of the flesh, restrains her wanderings and blushes at being seen in public.
Likes to have some external comfort in which it can take sensual delight. Seeks consolation only in God, to find her delight in the highest Good, above all visible things.
Does everything for its own gain and interest. It can do nothing without pay and hopes for its good deeds to receive their equal or better, or else praise and favor. It is very desirous of having its deeds and gifts highly regarded. Seeks nothing temporal, nor does she ask any recompense but God alone. Of temporal necessities she asks no more than will serve to obtain eternity.
Rejoices in many friends and kinsfolk, glories in noble position and birth, fawns on the powerful, flatters the rich, and applauds those who are like itself. Loves even her enemies and is not puffed up at having many friends. She does not think highly of either position or birth unless there is also virtue there. She favors the poor in preference to the rich. She sympathizes with the innocent rather than with the powerful. She rejoices with the true man rather than with the deceitful, and is always exhorting the good to strive for better gifts, to become like the Son of God by practicing the virtues.
Is quick to complain of need and trouble. Is stanch in suffering want.
Turns all things back to self. It fights and argues for self. Brings all things back to God in Whom they have their source. To herself she ascribes no good, nor is she arrogant or presumptuous. She is not contentious. She does not prefer her own opinion to the opinion of others, but in every matter of sense and thought submits herself to eternal wisdom and the divine judgment.
Has a relish for knowing secrets and hearing news. It wishes to appear abroad and to have many sense experiences. It wishes to be known and to do things for which it will be praised and admired. Does not care to hear news or curious matters, because all this arises from the old corruption of man, since there is nothing new, nothing lasting on earth. Grace teaches, therefore, restraint of the senses, avoidance of vain self-satisfaction and show, the humble hiding of deeds worthy of praise and admiration, and the seeking in every thing and in every knowledge the fruit of usefulness, the praise and honor of God. She will not have herself or hers exalted, but desires that God Who bestows all simply out of love should be blessed in His gifts.

To You I lift up my soul

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Jesus was in one of the towns when a man appeared, covered in leprosy. Seeing Jesus he fell on his face and implored Him. ‘Sir,’ he said ‘If You want to, You can cure me.’ Jesus stretched out His hand, touched him and said, ‘Of course I want to! Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once.

– Luke 5:12-13

During Mass a few days ago, Luke 5:12-16 was read as the Gospel reading. It really jumped out at me and captured my heart. Since then, I’ve been pondering over it and savouring it. The more I reflect upon it, the more I fall in love with the Lord Jesus Christ, whose mercy is so tender and love is so generous.

I think of my own soul and how it’s sick with sin; how it’s leprous. Sin prevents me from loving the Lord with my whole heart and soul, and I detest it because of this. I yearn to be united with my Lord but because of my inclination to sin, I am not free to love Him single-mindedly, single-heartedly. So I cry out to my Lord ‘If You want to, please cure me!’. And I know that He will always say ‘Of course I want to! Be cured!’. Now the limiting factor in this healing process is my cooperation with the Lord. I do not dare to put my trust in myself, so I put my trust in the Lord. I ask the Lord to show me the way to recovery and then to give me the strength to obey and to hold my hands all the way.

Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to place your trust in God, and not in yourself

– St. Augustine

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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.

2016 Resolutions

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Today I read an article titled ‘How to Succeed at Your New Year’s Resolutions‘ by Hudson Byblow.

Step 1: Stop aiming to change your actions.

Instead of simply trying to change your actions, aim to change your heart. If you open your heart to God’s grace, your heart will be changed, and your actions will follow suit.

Step 2: There is no step 2. Step 1 is all you need to do… over and over and over again.

When we aim to modify our hearts, we can shift our focus from saying “NO” to “stuff” to saying “YES” to God…

We become who we practice to be; we become a further entrenched version of who we are today. It’s that simple…

And here I am today, making the resolution to open my heart to Christ fully—and to no longer pretend that putting a Band-Aid on a bursting dam will solve the leak. Today I rebuild the dam, one YES at a time.

These are my “little victories,” and by the grace of God, they have helped me become who I am today.

As for resolutions? Just one.

– Hudson Byblow, How to Succeed at Your New Year’s Resolutions

My Dad also suggested that we make 4 resolutions this year as a family activity. Each person would make 4 goals that they want to work on in 2016 and share them with the family if they want to. The 4 goals will be based on the 4 pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  1. Study (Part One: The profession of faith)
  2. Sacraments (Part Two: The sacraments of faith)
  3. Service (Part Three: The life of faith)
  4. Prayer (Part Four: Prayer in the life of faith)

While this is a wonderful family activity, I think that asking people to change their actions without changing their hearts is a less beautiful approach than asking people to change from the inside out; that is, to allow Christ to change their hearts and therefore their actions.

I am reluctant to make these 4 resolutions now because I don’t know what is best for me. But I know that God does! So I’ll leave it up to Him to bring me where He will and to form my soul the way He wants. All I ask the Lord is to tell me what He wants me to do, and then help me on every step of the way.

Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to place your trust in God, and not in yourself

– St. Augustine

Suffering

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I have been thinking about suffering a lot recently. I’ve been worried about going through suffering in the future; the suffering of infertility and the suffering of being physically separated from my husband.

During Mass and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament today I prayed a lot about the topic of suffering in my life and thought of St. Therese. I will drink from the cup of suffering if my Lord offers it to me because I trust Him.

Childlike trust

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When I read ‘Story of a Soul’ by St. Therese of Lisieux, I was captivated by her childlike trust in God. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to imitate her Little Way. Fortunately, my Lord has been teaching me how to.

At the moment, my understanding of having childlike trust in the Lord is to place my trust in the Lord and not in myself; it is to be so full of trust that I can fall asleep in God’s arms.

Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to place your trust in God, and not in yourself

– St. Augustine

 

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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The mantilla

Today I read the article ‘Unwrapping A Veil of Mystery: The Mantilla’ and was blown away by the beautiful symbolism of the Mantilla.

I first started thinking about veiling during Mass about 2 years ago when I was on a Catholic retreat with my husband. I saw a 35yo lady wearing a mantilla and it was such a beautiful witness that I had to ask her why she wore it as soon as I had the opportunity to. When she told me that she veils during Mass because women were told to do so in the New Testament, I was intrigued and went to look it up on my own later on.

While there are so many beautiful reasons to veil during Mass, ultimately the reason I want to veil is because women are told to in the New testament. It’s pretty simple I suppose.

As a Catholic who is finally discovering the treasure of Catholicism, I see no reason why I should forgo this rich and beautiful tradition of the Church that women are so privileged to have the opportunity to adopt.

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