Friday, January 20, 2017

Let hope be liberated in you

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

The path to hope is one that we are not willing to take, for it means allowing yourself to live in the unhappiness that so often can feels like it is crushing you.  Things become very simple at those moments and the more your unhappiness crushes you, the more you discover it crushes you against God.  Nothing exist between you and Him when your life the nadir of its sufferings.  

So often we approach life as something we own or as if we are the source of it; but suffering reveals that it is a "gratuitous gift" and not the product of "anxious, personal industry."  When we begin to see this, hope blooms and we realize finally that we had been repressing it.  And so Daughters, entrust yourselves to God rather than seeking to make Him enter your plans.  Let hope be liberated in you.

It is when you are the most unhappy that you will find yourselves the most happy.  Never will you have known greater peace, simplification, and fervor than when you are completely unhappy.  The weight of your unhappiness crushes you, but against God, to the point of not leaving any space between Him and you.  Your powerlessness, your total misery will make your liberation.  You will learn then that existence is a gratuitous gift and not an anxious personal industry.  And the intensity of the hope which will bloom so simply in your heart will reveal to you the violence with which you had repressed it until then.

You will know that nothing was more natural to you than to entrust yourself, whereas you were trying to use even your first move of confidence towards God in order not to entrust yourself truly to him, but to try to make him enter into your plans, like a pawn on your chessboard.  It is only when you accepted to be a pawn in his hand and in his plan, that you liberated hope and his action.

L. Evely
Suffering

Thursday, January 19, 2017

like a word which one never finishes pronouncing


Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

One of the most unfortunate and painful effects of sin is the distance it places between Creator and creature.  A feeling of psychosis washes over us that Evely strains to capture in the reflection below: "like a word which one never finishes pronouncing, eternally suspended and uncertain about its own meaning.  A word which does not hear the voice which pronounces it. . . ."   Our perception and experience of reality changes.  It is as if we are being shaped by a violent force or dark will in which we experience no love.  Conscious alone of this painful and frightening reality, we grow weary and cry out against the one who is responsible for it.  Yet, incapable of expressing ourselves, our cries never seem to communicate this pain or find a path to its relief.  

Only He who created us, He who is meaning itself, can free us from our distress and He must work at the very locus of the pain.  Rest comes to us only when we have be recreated by the loving hands we have grown to fear and sometimes even hate.  We will find rest only when the work of the pierced and loving hands is complete.

There is no worse suffering than to be a creature.  We are like a word which one never finishes pronouncing, eternally suspended and uncertain about its own meaning. A word which does not hear the voice which pronounces it. A word which must be content to let itself be pronounced.

Or else we are like rough-casts which have escaped from the hands of our modeler.

We are sick and tired of being hurt, of blows, scrapings, cuttings, remodeling.  But when we stop in our furious flight, we find ourselves miserable, terribly insufficient, incapable of expressing ourselves and finding our bearings, and we cry with anger and indignation against him who is responsible for it.

There is no rest, for a creature, except in the hands of his Creator.  He alone can complete it, free it from its anxiety and distress.  But the place of its completion is also the place of its pain, the place where God is at work on it.  There is no peace for us except in relying on the place where we are hurt.

L. Evely
Suffering

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The asceticism of joy


Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Your patron, Philip, knew well how sadness can cling to the soul.  It is for this reason that he counseled the practice of the Asceticism of Joy.  The fundamental attitude that flows from the virtue of faith is joy in the Lord; being able to see through the tears to the promise of life and love.  However, almost as a defensive measure our minds can begin to cling to our sadness and make the feeling of melancholy a pillow upon which we lay our heads and hearts.  We find that the melancholy that suffering can produce in the soul can be made into a shell -  protecting us from life.  It allows us to remain static while at the same time giving a certain liberty to our angry and aggression toward the world, others, and ultimately God.  There is even a certain power in being a "kill joy"; a satisfaction when there is no joy in the world around us any longer.  Only then will world conform to our internal state and our suffering will be confirmed.  Such a melancholic spirit in the end gives way to despair; but not before having given us long service. 

For such a soul there is no worse detachment, no greater mortification than joy.  Yet without this asceticism, without this practice of true faith, the heart will remain shrouded in darkness.

We must know how to detach ourselves even from suffering.  We must learn to be happy even when we are unhappy.  We must, in a word, work loose from ourselves.  A Father of the Church used to say to himself, "There is only one way of being cured of sadness, and that is to dislike being sad."  It is hard to believe this when we are suffering.  As if we had chosen to be hurt!  Of course not, but what is terrible is that we often choose to keep on suffering, to fan the flames of our pain, to inflame our wounds, to find our only comfort in our very discomfort.  For if we keep our pain, then we also keep our right to complain, our right to withdraw into our shell, our right to hurt others and to kill their joy.  And when there is no joy in the world any longer, then we will be confirmed in our pain.  We have, in the meantime, only one stone to rest our head on, and it is called despair.  This hard pillow will give us long service.

Indeed, nothing would be harder than to stop being unhappy.  There is no worse detachment than joy.

L. Evely
Suffering

The right cross

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

The language of the cross can be bewildering.  We speak of "taking up our cross" and "offering up" our sufferings and inconveniences to God; we know that this is part of the Christian Way.  But, often, both the language and the clarity of faith fail us when confronted with the reality of the cross that we actually receive - when all meaning and understanding elude us.  When we are confined to our bed, checkmated by failure, isolated by a misfortune, annihilated by the feeling of our powerlessness, we must resign ourselves to listen to God's language, to admit a Presence in the pain, to acknowledge His will not in what is elevating but humiliating.

The cross finds entry where we are most defenseless.  We come to see how feebly we carry what has been given to us.  It can never be the right cross for us - for in some way we would seek to maintain the illusion of strength and self-sufficiently.  It must make sense to us or seem to have a higher reason. Yet, it is only the cross the Lord chooses when all we can do is lean into the pain and even then as what, at the time, seems to be a foreign and dark will.     

We all know that a Christian must bear the cross.  We are all disposed, theoretically, to accept one.  But have you noticed that it is never the right cross which comes to us?  The cross we bear (our health, our face, our embarrassment, our wife, our husband, our mother, our child) always seems to us unbearable, petty, humiliating, harmful.  It is always precisely what should not have become our lot, precisely what we can accept for all kinds of obvious reasons which we are always harping on.  All the other crosses seem preferable to us, that of our neighbor, the previous one - that which we have imagined.  Ours is hateful, it destroys us, it hurts us - imagine, it embitters us, and we have a grudge against ourselves and against everybody.  We desperately call for another, for a cross which "fits in," a bearable, spiritual, elevating cross, beneficial to us and to others.

But alas, we must come to recognize that if the cross suited us, it would no longer be a cross; that if we refuse those which hurt, we refuse any cross; and that the cross which God parcels out to us must necessarily always be humiliating and painful, paralyzing and difficult, and must hurt us at the spot where we are the most defenseless.

L. Evely
Suffering

Monday, January 16, 2017

You only become the saint you do not want to become



Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

I offer you these reflections on Suffering because they place before our hearts aspects of life that we are often afraid to look at so candidly.  Though honest, one might even say brutally so, they also seem to buoy up the heart with their deep insights into the presence and providence of God in places we wouldn't expect.  Encountering the trials and turmoils of life that often leave our hopes and dreams in tatters, and experiencing the inevitable decline of old age and its losses, we begin to understand that neither our sanctity nor the love of God depends on anything in this world.  In fact, we find when we are empty Fullness comes to us, when broken the Healer, and when our hearts are made bitter through suffering the Sweetness of Love.

You will never become a saint in the way you imagine or hope.  One can become a saint only be accepting a will other than one's own.   I often imagine the story of an old, worn man, of an elderly and disappointed woman, whose every good desire has run aground, whom God has constantly hindered in their most generous plans.

Their vocation, put to the test, has been denied; their attempts at the apostolate have failed for miserable reasons of money and machination, their marriage is sterile or their children are dead, their life is useless.

They grow old anxious and lonely, surrounded by ruins.

But when, sometimes, on their knees, in a long, mute prayer, they dare to question the impenetrable Providence who has conducted their lives, when they reach out their empty hands towards God, when they offer him their wasted existence, their hearts which have been beaten so little, it comes about that they receive a strangely comforting answer.  They sometimes come to understand, in a disarming light, that everything is quite as he wanted it, that their own will would have led them to human results, but that God preferred to lead them to him, that he reserved them entirely for himself, so that the witness they bear to him is pure.

"Yes, I have shattered your projects, I have annihilated your pride.  Nobody needs you, you live without self-contentment, you are before me like a lamp which shines for the satisfaction of nobody, - you are 'without any purpose.'  But you are my love and my glory, I placed my delight in you, you are the portion reserved to me, so well preserved that you are wanted by nobody else, and that you do not even think of being useful, you are my purest reflection because you have become the saints you did not want to become."

L. Evely
Suffering