Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,
If there was one reflection I would have you read during this holy season of Lent and that captures the spirit of Reparation and how one may live it fully in the world, it would be the following by Fr. Matteo Boevey. I pray it stirs your heart as it did mine and fills you with a desire for penance and to offer all you have, are and suffer to Christ.
Love for God is not mere sentiment or pious devotion but rather a true spirit of Reparation that begins with radical fidelity to the law of God and ends with true immolation - the outpouring of self in sacrificial suffering. It is a willingness to accept all that comes from the hand of God. Penance is found in the daily warp and woof of life and one need not seek it elsewhere. The life that God has planned for us holds sufficient opportunities for self immolation.
We, daughters, must not be of that class of poets and romanticists who hymn the praises of Divine Love but do not live up to what they say. If this love of ours is to be sincere, it must not be a mere sentimental feeling but a principle of good works and true immolation.
This immolation consists, above all, in the strict and faithful observance of the law; "He who has my commandments and keeps them: he it is who loves Me." This scrupulous fulfillment of the law, this fidelity to all its points, whether great or small, constitutes the very first degree of self-immolation. Those thousand details of life and insignificant trifles, as we improperly call them, weave for us the roughcasts and most practical hair shirt. If we are not saints in our ordinary daily lives it is not because opportunity for doing penance is wanting, but because the love which gives merit and worth to the inevitable daily sacrifices, doest not animate our souls. If your health does not permit of your using instruments of penance, just live your life as God planned it for you. Such a course of action will be a more painful mortification than any bodily penance, but accept all with great love.
The Love of the Eucharist, the Cross and our Neighbor must imbue all that we do and shape the contours of our spiritual life. All of these hold suffering within them and we must allow ourselves to become victims of love. Again, we need not seek this out other than where we are and the realities of our life. There we will be ground into the flour of which hosts are made.
There are three loves which really constitute but one, namely: Love of the Eucharist, Love of the Cross and Love of Souls. You cannot separate them nor can you have one to the exclusion of the others. And precisely because I preach the love of Reparation to the Heart of Jesus to those who are to be Its apostles, I must necessarily preach sacrifice since the two ideas are as closely linked together as the sun and light. Hence we cannot love without suffering, nor suffer gloriously and beneficently without loving. I cherish the Cross for the sake of the Crucified Whom I worship, but I love the Crucified Jesus on the throne of His Cross! He sealed, with His Sacred Blood, a pact of eternal love for us; we must seal with blood the pact of friendship and the pledge of apostleship which are our titles to glory. "I am Christ's wheat," said St. Ignatius of Antioch, "and that I may be made into bread worthy of God, I must needs be ground by the teeth of lions." Our vocation in relation to the glory and the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus requires that we should be, with Him and like Him, maoris victims, victims of love. By just living the life Our Lord has ordained for us, no more or less, we shall be ground into the holy flour of which the "hosts" are made.
The most fruitful crosses are those that the Lord gives us without consulting us. It is in the little contradictions of life, the little trials, that we set aside our wills most perfectly. Of this we need have no fear. God is always gentle and wise in the ways He chooses to sanctify us. Typically it is our own fickle and capricious characters that makes the crosses we bear heavy. Sometimes, it is through these very weaknesses that He mortifies us the most.
If you hunger for greater sacrifices; if, ever faithful to your daily cross, you feel that, but the grace of God, a true spirit of immolation is growing in your soul, you will experience how ingenious divine love is in raising up a thousand ways of proving your love. Never doubt that the best crosses, the safest, the most divine is always that one which Jesus Himself ordained without consulting us. Increase your faith in this doctrine so dear to saints cast in the mold of Nazareth. Adore, bless and praise God in all contradictions and trials which come directly from his Hand and, conquering the repugnance of your nature, say with all your heart "Thy will be done, " or still better, "Magnificat!"
In our goal and progress oriented culture, we often find most painful the kind of humbling that comes through failure. Often even those holy projects we begin have more to do with our own ego than with the will of God. We want to choose our own way to holiness, rather than allowing God Himself to be our way and allowing Him to direct and order our lives and hearts.
He disperses our own plans, our golden dreams like a puff of smoke. We often cherish some scheme which we think will serve His Glory while He has quite different projects for our own glory. It is very trying to contemplate the ruins of what we thought to be, and which perhaps indeed was, a holy project! But these ruins are holier, more glorious and richer still in merit, when we conform with generous love to the blessed will of God. "Leave Me to do as I will," Jesus says, "tie not My hands with your whims, trace not out the path for Me, for I am the Way. Do you say from your heart: "Thy Kingdom come"? If so, let Me direct and order all, for I am Love. Would you be useful and happy? Put the rudder in My hands, entrust it entirely to Me, but complain not if I plan our your life for you." What should be your reply, apostles of Reparation to the Sacred Heart? - - "Fiat, Magnificat!" Henceforth, O Jesus, never consult us: speak, command, rule over us as absolute King of our hearts.
Even in our spiritual life we are wont to mix with the good wine the muddy water of our own desires and we do not allow Our Lord, except under protest, to disarrange our little plans for sanctity! St. Teresa, one evening, got ready a number of penitential instruments, proposing to commence a novena of austerities on the next day for an important intention; but on the following morning she was laid up with a high temperature. With her habitual trust and familiarity she said to Our Lord: "Did You not know that I purposed to begin my novena of penance today? Could You not delay sending me this illness till my penance was accomplished?" And Jesus replied: my penance accomplished?" And Jesus replied: "You shall make a novena and be holy in My way, not yours!" Happy the souls that live on truth and fear illusions in holy things, seeing and accepting in their every day lives "the discipline of Jesus and His Holy Will."
Corporal disciplines have always been put forward as important for spiritual growth, but the greater penance always is when we are brought low by physical weakness and illness. It is through these that we can be mortified multiples times in a given hour. Accepting our limitations and the humiliations that often come with them can make us great saints. A chronic invalid can be as great a penitent as a Carthusian monk and a mother who suffers for her children can be a hidden martyr of the highest order.
If it is true that corporal penance is absolutely indispensable to salvation - and above all to sanctification - why are man who aspire to a holy life rendered incapable of fasting, watching, taking the discipline, sleeping on bare ground, mixing bitter herbs with their food, etc.? The Divine Master cannot be acting in a contradictory way by asking them to fly and then clipping their wings. There are thousands of other austerities that may be practiced. The severest penance, even in the cloister, is the physical pain and moral anguish which God, in His wisdom and mercy, ordains for our sanctification. This includes illness, sorrow, inclemency of weather, work, contradiction and lack of resources. We can make use of these penitential garments a hundred times a day, even a hundred times an hour!
Many fervent people, owing to the delicacy of their health, their obligations or obedience, cannot and must not fast. They are ordered to sleep longer and to take car of themselves. Justice, charity and obedience require that they should submit. Yet such people are not exempt from the duty of penance; they need not renounce the ideal of sanctity. They should accept with submission, faith, peace and love, their poor health, their sufferings and all the weariness and humiliation attached thereto. They will thus become great penitents and great saints.
This assurance will give relief to many a troubled heart that has hitherto looked upon corporal
penance as essential to sanctification. A chronic invalid may lead as penitent a life as a Carthusian. A mother whose heart, like that of Mary, is pierced with sorrows - yet who blesses God and rejoices in her martyrdom - is a penitent and a martyr of the highest order, a real marvel of grace. This luminous and inspiring doctrine is not my invention - God preserve me from such an audacity - but is essentially the teaching of the Heart of Jesus. Our fellow creatures, too, often cause us the acutest sufferings, and God permits this because we have often been gall and vinegar to the lips of Our Divine Lord. Let us do penance and suffering lovingly! We have all experienced at one time or another a feeling of utter loneliness, the suffering of being misunderstood, the impossibility of opening our hearts to anyone that we can fully trust. Here, again, let us do penance and suffering lovingly! Another torture is temptation, the revolt of passions, the scourge of finding incentive to evil in all around us - not because others but on account of our own evil nature. In such trying moments let us remember Our Lord's words to St. Paul: "My Grace is sufficient for you." Let us do penance and suffering lovingly! Calvary is to be met with even in our own homes, where we encounter the cruel sufferings of disappointments, loss of fortune, sorrow, death itself. it would be a great mistake to look on home crosses as a scourge. They are but a trial of our love. Jesus spared not even His own Mother. He willed that she should weep and so increase the beauty and tender mercy of her soul. Why then should we be spared? Our Blessed Mother was the most sorrowful, the most afflicted of God's creatures because of her glorious vocation of Queen of martyrs and apostles. Let us do penance and suffering lovingly!
We must learn, beginning in the home, that suffering is not to be looked upon with horror or avoided by grasped and longed for as something deeply sanctifying. We must be formed in the school of Reparation to be lovers of the Cross and to immerse ourselves in the wounded Side of Christ. Heroic hearts are formed in such a Crucible.
A Catholic home should nurture strong and valiant souls capable of grasping, in all its integrity, the doctrine of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the doctrine of suffering and its sanctifying and redeeming power. We should set our faces firmly against the opinion that suffering is to be looked upon with horror and disgust. Indeed, though considering themselves pious and claiming to love Our Lord sincerely, many flee in consternation at the slightest pin-prick and refuse to taste even a drop of His bitter chalice. Their only prayer, according to St. Teresa, is the ejaculation: "From Thy Cross and my crosses deliver me, O Lord!"
On the other hand, thank God, many love to repeat with all their hearts the words of St. Teresa: "Grant me either to suffer or to die," and that of St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi: "To suffer and to die!" Many souls of this kind are now being formed in the school of Reparation to the Sacred Heart. Whereas the lovers of the Cross were wont to press their lips in passionate love to the wounds of Christ, loving these wounds and seeking them with love, the lovers of the Heart of Jesus go much further. They penetrate, through the wound in His Side, right into the interior suffering of His Heart, learning in that bleeding sanctuary of glory of interior immolation and the joy to be found even in the bitterest anguish of the soul. The most heroic hearts are those which have been wrought on the anvil of the wound in Christ's Side and in the furnace of His Heart.
We must never think that if prevented from embracing the austerities prescribed by the Church that sanctity is beyond our reach. Daily life holds within it all that is needed, so long as we don't drag our crosses along with complaint or grumbling. Rather, joyfully let Jesus Crucified reign within your hearts and in this way be a living witness to His love.
To confine austerity to fasting and other corporal mortification is to restrict the idea of penance. The Church, no doubt, encourages these practices - as we see by the Ecclesiastical fasts ordained - and she gives full approbation to certain religious orders, such as the Trappist, which go far beyond what is prescribed for the ordinary Catholic in this respect. But eighty percent of Her children unfortunately - nay, providentially - are unable to live such penitential lives. Yet we are bound to preach in season and out of season the obligation of penance. How are they to fulfill it? By just accepting the crosses of their daily lives and so accomplishing all that is required of them.
A good Catholic once said to me: "Father, I have long given up all thought of being a saint, for I know it is impossible, my health does not permit of the peace necessary for those who seek for sanctity." How absurd! Just as though it were right to say: "I have no health, so I cannot be a saint." It came as a revelation to her to learn that her delicate health, if borne in a great spirit of faith and love, afforded more opportunity for merit than any penance she could inflict upon herself. All this seems obvious and logical when thus argued and stated; but it is not universally understood because sufficient insistence has not been laid on the spirit of penance, of this kind of penance, and above all the fact that it is love which gives merit to austerities whatever these may be.
Jesus said to Margaret Mary: "Take My daughter, the cross which I Myself give you and plant it in your heart, that you may always have it before your eyes and carry it in the arms of your fondest desires. To carry it in your arms means to embrace it courageously, every time it presents itself, as the most precious token of My Love." Yet many of Our Lord's friends do not embrace it but drag it along unlovingly and grumblingly. This is the more pitiful since we cannot get rid of it or lighten it by complaints; on the contrary, a cross we drag instead of bearing it bravely crushes us to earth, while one embraced with love lends wings which carry us aloft.
Dear Daughters, never give our enemies an opportunity of saying that the love of the Sacred Heart and reparation is a mere sentimental devotion. On the contrary, show them that friends and apostles of the King of Love, like St. Laurence, how to smile on the gridiron of immolation. Do not envy the stigmata of the Seraph of Assisi, bear them within your souls like a fountain of life. As we shall see later, Jesus - Our King - wills to reign "a ligno," from His Cross. He crucified with you and you with with Him. Thus will you bring all men to His Heart.
Do not swell the ranks of those who follow the Master only in the breaking of the bread and not in the drinking of His Chalice. There are three loves which should be inseparably linked together:
Love of the Eucharist, Love of Souls, Love of Immolation.
Father Mateo Crawley Boevey, SS. CC.
Jesus the King of Love