Saturday, May 11, 2013

Summing up Retreat 2013

“3. I desire no consolation which taketh away from me compunction, I love no contemplation which leadeth to pride. For all that is high is not holy, nor is everything that is sweet good; every desire is not pure; nor is everything that is dear to us pleasing unto God.” [The Imitation of Christ (Optimized for Kindle) (Thomas A. Kempis and The Collected Works of Thomas A Kempis) - Highlight Loc. 1019-21]

I don’t think we set out to seek an insight and what touches us at a given moment may seem all too ordinary for others, but this little quote from “The Imitation of Christ” is a big gift which I can carry away from my annual retreat. Deo gratias!

“And do you know what shows the imperfection of their love? It is that, as soon as they are deprived of the consolations which they find in Me, their love fails and can no longer survive. It becomes weak and gradually cools towards Me when, in order to exercise them in virtue and to detach them from their imperfection, I withdraw spiritual consolations from them and send them difficulties and afflictions. I act in this way in order to bring them to perfection, to teach them to know themselves, to realize that they are nothing and that of themselves they have no grace. Adversity should have the effect of making them seek refuge in Me, recognize Me as their benefactor, and become attached to Me by a true humility....” {adapted from St. Catherine of Siena}  [Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life (Kindle Edition) - Highlight Loc. 557-62]

What one should expect from a retreat, other than privileged time to “rest in the Lord”, may be too tough or personalized of a question to set out for general discussion. I wish at least that much (time to “rest in the Lord”) for others and hope that brother priests and bishops never miss an annual retreat.

The challenge for all would seem to be this matter of how life, our life, is conducted, day to day in the course of that year which may pass between spiritual exercises, aka retreat. Is it like life between pedicures (I’ve never had one, but my sisters tell me it works wonders all around)? Is it one long submersion in the work-a-day world, with only brief ascents to catch one’s bearings, kind of like snorkeling in open water and wanting to keep your boat in sight? I certainly hope that retreat brings the occasional insight on how to change and grow, how better to live and serve day-in-and-day-out.

I hope too that retreat helps us long for heaven and that means for death in the Lord and life with Him for all eternity. In the day of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua, they and many others longed for martyrdom at the hands of those who denied Christ His Divinity and Lordship over all creation. Comparable to their attempts to reach the battle fronts between belief and unbelief in their day might be an attempt by some adventurous and zealous youth to face the challenge of some blasphemous TV talk show host. We commend all to the Fathers and Doctors who counsel against running headlong to martyrdom.

Thus, by the unutterable mercy of God, even the very punishment of wickedness has become the armor of virtue, and the penalty of the sinner becomes the reward of the righteous. For then death was incurred by sinning; now righteousness is fulfilled by dying. In the case of the holy martyrs it is so; for to them the persecutor proposes the alternative, apostasy or death. [Saint Augustine of Hippo. The City of God (Kindle Edition) - Highlight Loc. 9400-9402]

Pray for me! Wish me another year in the Lord! I wish and pray the same thing for you, all of us together struggling for glory, Glory, alongside our great Captain. Not, then, so much seeking an increment of consolations as hoping for an excess of zeal.

 “Consider now the lively examples of the holy fathers, in whom shone forth real perfectness and religion, and thou shalt see how little, even as nothing, is all that we do. Ah! What is our life when compared to theirs? They, saints and friends of Christ as they were, served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in labour and weariness, in watchings and fastings, in prayer and holy meditations, in persecutions and much rebuke.” [The Imitation of Christ (Optimized for Kindle) (Thomas A. Kempis and The Collected Works of Thomas A Kempis) - Highlight Loc. 471-74]


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