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

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the imitation of christ

The Real Presence of our Blessed Lord

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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.

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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

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

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.

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.

Dear 11 year old…

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My little sister is turning 11 in a few days time! She is so blessed to have her birthday fall on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary 😀

She is also really into the Harry Potter series at the moment, so I decided to write her a ‘Hogwarts’ acceptance letter for this special day. It’s not every day that you turn 11 😉

Dear Miss **** ***,

We are pleased to invite you to Jesus’ School of Love.

In this School we learn to live the life that we are designed for since the beginning of Time. We are lovingly, and with infinite creativity, designed by God to love Him and to be Loved by Him. This is what we are created for. And so, in Jesus’ School of Love, this is what we will learn to do; to be fully alive!

When we are who we are meant to be, we will have such a deep peace and joy that they world cannot give and cannot take away! Our lives will never be boring. It will be an adventure beyond your wildest dreams 😀

Come and join us on this exciting adventure 🙂 We are all rooting for you!

Your instructors

Your instructors will be God the Father, Jesus the Son & the Holy Spirit.

God the Father is infinitely tender and loving. Jesus the Son is unimaginably merciful and wants you to snuggle up to Him. The Holy Spirit will be the most gentle and patient teacher you will ever have. How blessed you are to have these as your instructors should you choose to enroll in the School of Love!

Your buddies

There are many many souls enrolled in this eternal School of Love. Some souls are here on earth with us, some are the Holy souls in Purgatory and the lucky last are the Saints in Heaven!

Many have been 11 years old too and will know something about the joys that you enjoy and the struggles that you face.

You can see the souls on earth! People like Mummy and Papa, your friends and family. You are talk to them face to face and ask them to pray for you 🙂

Who do you trust to guide you in this school of Love here on earth? They will be your buddies here on earth if you want them to!

The souls that you can’t see are the Holy souls and the Saints. Do you remember them? The good news is that you can ask them to pray for you too. And what’s even better news is that they are closer to God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy spirit than any of us on earth so their prayers will be even more powerful!

Which are your favourite Saints? They will be your buddies up in Heaven if you ask them to be 🙂

Also, don’t forget to pray for the souls on earth and in Purgatory. God made our hearts to love Him, and so our hearts will be restless until we rest in Him. And it is really uncomfortable to be restless that’s for sure! The Saints are already resting in the Sacred Heart of Jesus up in Heaven so they’re all good 😉

Recommended books 

 1. The Bible – Author: The Holy Spirit

2. The Imitation of Christ (for children) – Author: Thomas a Kempis, Translator: Elizabeth Ficocelli

3. The Story of a Soul – Author: Saint Therese the Little Flower

Many souls who have been enrolled in Jesus’ School of Love for a very long time have written beautiful books that are very interesting and helpful to read!

My favourite books (other than the Bible) are ‘The Imitation of Christ’ and ‘The Story of a Soul’.

‘The Imitation of Christ’ is like an instruction manual for the souls in the School of Love. The instructions are for caring for our souls so that we will bloom like beautiful flowers in God’s garden. Many Saints have followed the instructions very carefully when they were still on earth and their souls have bloomed into the most gorgeous flowers you can imagine!

In ‘The Story of a Soul’, Saint Therese (nicknamed ‘Little Flower’) tells us about her Little Way that she walked here on earth. Using the Little Way, she remained like a child and therefore allowed her instructors in this School of Love (The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) to guide her and form her soul so that she could be united completely with God. She says that life is simple because in every moment the only question you have to ask is “What is the demand of love in this very moment?”

Included with this letter is a complimentary copy of ‘The Imitation of Christ for Children’.

Key dates

  • Start of term – This very second if you want to! Any time you are ready.
  • End of term – Never 🙂 Isn’t that awesome?!
  • Holidays – You won’t want any 😉 Trust us.

Final words

Happy Birthday! It’s not every day that you turn 11 😉 Congratulations on 11 blessed years.

May God and our Mama Mary keep you close to their hearts ❤

Love,

*** ***

Resignation without reservation

Ansigni. Detail from Madonna with Child, 19th Century

The Voice of Christ…

Some there are who resign themselves, but with certain reservation; they do not trust fully in God and therefore they try to provide for themselves. Others, again, at first offer all, but afterward are assailed by temptation and return to what they have renounced, thereby making no progress in virtue. These will not reach the true liberty of a pure heart nor the grace of happy friendship with Me unless they first make a full resignation and a daily sacrifice of themselves. Without this no fruitful union lasts nor will last.

I have said to you very often, and now I say again: forsake yourself, renounce yourself and you shall enjoy great inward peace. Give all for all. Ask nothing, demand nothing in return. Trust purely and without hesitation in Me, and you shall possess Me. You will be free of heart and darkness will not overwhelm you.

Strive for this, pray for this, desire this — to be stripped of all selfishness and naked to follow the naked Jesus, to die to self and live forever for Me. Then all vain imaginations, all wicked disturbances and superfluous cares will vanish. Then also immoderate fear will leave you and inordinate love will die.

– Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Recently I have been reading ‘The Imitation of Christ’ by Thomas a Kempis (Translators: Aloysius Croft & Harold Bolton). The assertions in the book are very simple but they are challenging to put into practice.

I will admit that I have been half-hearted at applying the principles described in the book to my life because it is painful to let go of earthly comforts. It is painful because they are what I have known for most of my life; I hardly know life apart from them.

So I have to rely solely on the Lord to form my soul. I fall often daily in almost every hour, but like St Therese the little flower says “to not become discouraged over our failings, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much.”

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.

Earthly affection

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He who learns to live the interior life and to take little account of outward things, does not seek special places or times to perform devout exercises. A spiritual man quickly recollects himself because he has never wasted his attention upon externals. No outside work, no business that cannot wait stands in his way. He adjusts himself to things as they happen. He whose disposition is well ordered cares nothing about the strange, perverse behavior of others, for a man is upset and distracted only in proportion as he engrosses himself in externals.

If all were well with you, therefore, and if you were purified from all sin, everything would tend to your good and be to your profit. But because you are as yet neither entirely dead to self nor free from all earthly affection, there is much that often displeases and disturbs you. Nothing so mars and defiles the heart of man as impure attachment to created things. But if you refuse external consolation, you will be able to contemplate heavenly things and often to experience interior joy.

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Every day I learn how I am still attached to earthly affection because of what upsets and distracts me. It always, always, falls into 4 broad categories; wealth, pleasure, honor and power.

I am not surprised by this of course. Without God’s help I can’t free myself from earthly affections as much as I want to. So I ask the Lord to form my soul the way He wants.

I (try to) treat every moment of my life like a learning task that a loving Father gives to His little child who doesn’t even know how to speak. He stands by my side watching over me and offers all the materials, resources and help I need to complete the task. All I have to do is accept His help and to reach up to Him with confident arms for help if I don’t know how to do it.

I watched Bishop Robert Barron’s youtube commentary on violence in the Bible a few days back and what he said really stuck with me. Bishop Barron said that violence in the Bible is symbolic for the need to battle eg. earthly attachment all the way down. I haven’t been doing this and have seen how true it is that if I don’t completely detach myself from earthly things, my disordered desires for them will grow in strength again. It’s a reliable piece of what I think of as spiritual physics. It’s not going to change no matter how much I wish that it would. It’s an inconvenient truth in a way but such as important one.

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