With a little tweak…”I am not afraid of THE truth anymore and I will not omit pieces of IT to make you comfortable.” This also involves pieces of me because the Truth is a part of me and I am a part of it, by the grace of God. Does not mean I will not be charitable, but it also does not mean I will not live it.
Well, perhaps in this post we can get to some more of the numerous things I have learned in the past week or so, such as diligence, keeping promises, and more recently, humility. I’ve learned more things about faith from my catechism readings, and I still have those post-grad hopes to share…we still may not get to them all, and that’s okay.
With regards to diligence…I feel this is a virtue that is highly lacking, both in myself and in the world as a whole. Diligence is working at something, building up your skills, learning from your mistakes, and through it all, never giving up. Learning the faith requires a lot of diligence…and a lot of humility. Humility truly is the root of this virtue of diligence. We must first realize that we have something to learn, that we are not where we need to be with some skill, some virtue, some gift or talent that needs development. This requires humility, looking at ourselves as we are and evaluating truthfully what we are capable of (honestly, nothing without God’s grace) and what we are not. When we see those many areas in need of development, we employ the virtue of diligence– a mixture of patience, perseverance, wisdom, hope and courage–to get the job done.
In addition to employing this virtue, we must also pray for it, and ask for God’s grace to see us through to the end of our task, no matter how long it may take or how many times we may fail at it. There are no true failures unless we give up. And when it is virtue we seek, which draws us closer to God and renders our soul more pleasing to Him, He will not fail to give us what we ask for. That is the great thing about diligence in the spiritual life–it always has a pay off, whereas diligence in the purely temporal aspects of our life (asking our boss for a raise, working to gain some skill we are not particularly gifted in, etc.) does not necessarily guarantee a reward. But the old adage holds true, most especially in the spiritual life: “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”
I believe Our Lord told a parable about a widow pestering a judge to hear her case. After asking continually that the judge avenge her, though the judge did not fear God or man, he eventually granted her what she asked. Our Lord comforts us with this, saying that God will swiftly avenge His elect who cry to Him for justice (Luke 18:1-8, DRA). If an unjust judge heard the case of the persistent widow, will not God hear the prayers of His people? We must have diligence in prayer; we read in the lives of the Saints how their diligence won them what they asked for–and often more than what they asked for. The first instance that comes to mind is the diligence of St. Monica for the conversion of her husband and son. After years and years of weeping and praying, her prayers were answered and she died in the knowledge that her husband and theretofore lost son were reconciled to the Church and to God. And not only did her prayers for their conversion bring their desired fruit, but her son became a great Saint, a Doctor of the Church! Thus God always repays those who cry to Him without fail, giving even more than their prayers’ request in His goodness and kindness towards them.
Diligence also teaches us about hope. Why are we diligent unless we earnestly hope for what we seek? If we did not hope for it, diligence would be of no use to us. What we seek would be always out of reach–thus those who lose hope often cease from doing good works and sometimes even take their own life, no longer seeing the usefulness of anything they do. No, friends, hope inspires diligence, as do humility, love of God, wisdom and courage. We love God; we hope to possess Him, and He gives us the wisdom and courage to seek Him with all our might, and the patience and perseverance to keep going–thus resulting in diligence, a lovely name we can use for this lovely virtue, a ‘compound’ virtue, if you will. It requires a lot of us, but the grace of God is sufficient for us in all things.
Also, on a side note, we must have diligence in keeping promises, not only between neighbors, but in our state of life and in our spiritual lives as well. At Baptism we make a promise to God to serve Him only. In Holy Matrimony we promise God and our spouse to remain with them, dwell with them, and raise children in the Catholic faith with them until death parts us. In Holy Orders the soul commits itself to serve God in a special way and devotes itself to the pastoring of souls and care of the Sacraments. Special promises to God are made by those of a religious vocation as well. Whatever our state of life, we have made a promise of one type or another to God to serve Him in a certain way, and that is why obedience and diligence in the duties of our state of life are so vital, and why it is a grave sin for us to neglect them. Our duties are part of a promise we have made to God, and therefore require diligent observation and care. We are diligent in them because we hope to obtain the reward of our promise to God, and hope to obtain His helps in keeping our promises, and most of all because we hope to possess eternal life with God.
Our chosen state of life is our little roadway to Him, and we must be willing to persevere through anything we find on that path, because this is the only road for us–this is the road we have promised God to travel on, and the road He has promised to help us travel, in order to reach Him. So diligence requires hope for something, and the highest hope is to hope to possess God. This is why we keep our promises–each one is important, each one requires diligence to keep.
Even among our neighbors, we are required to keep our promises, because they bind us on our word, and to fail in them means to tarnish our name and, more importantly, to dishonor God. Dutiful obedience to His commands brings honor and glory to God. When we do not obey, or are remiss in our duties that we have bound ourselves to, we dishonor God by disobedience and by turning away from the promises we have made. God never fails in His promises, and therefore we, as representatives of God and of His Church, made in His image, bring dishonor to God by acting contrary to the One we represent.
Also, humility and self-knowledge should keep us from making promises that we are unable to keep. We should not bind ourselves to something that is outside of our power, but only what is reasonable for us to keep and hold ourselves to. And in any promise we make, whether to God or our neighbor, we should ask God to help us keep it, because only by His grace can we stand, and only by His grace are we made to live according to the Truth.
Well, that covers quite a bit. I learned a lot just by writing this today, and I hope you, dear reader, have gained something here by my humble scribblings. May God bless you, and hopefully next time I can share some of my hopes for the future, and what God has given me thus far in this new chapter of my life.
P.S. Don’t forget–the Month of May is dedicated to Our Lady!! Honor her and thank her for her holy intercession and maternal love for us by some special prayers, devotions, readings, etc., especially in this month devoted to her!
+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+
Well, graduation has come and gone. Only four days past the day and it already feels like it was ages ago. In that time, I have learned a few things from my daily studies, both in “The Catechism Explained” and in my occasional viewings of “Adventures from the Book of Virtues”, including the virtue of faith; diligence; and keeping promises. I would also like to share with you some hopes–and some possible progress made– in regards to my post-graduate life.
In the Catechism, I have been reading about the virtue of faith: about the motives of faith, the absence or loss of faith, and the duty to confess our faith, to be particular. These have all been very enlightening. As you can probably gather from the title, “The Catechism Explained” goes more in depth on each topic. It is not in a question-and-answer format like most catechisms, but rather goes by section and subsection, exploring each topic in precise but simple terminology, giving examples, metaphors, etc. I will share with you some insights I gathered from these topics.
On the motives of faith, I learned that miracles and prophecy are the chief external motives of faith. Miracles are like a stamp that God puts on His work to show that they are really from Him. Miracles are divided into two classes, first and second: the first being those that ‘altogether surpass all the powers of nature’. An example of a miracle of the first class would be raising the dead to life. A miracle of the second class is something that might very well be done in the course of nature, but the time or circumstances that usually come with it are not present. Two examples of this type of miracle are the healing of a sick man with just a word, or the gift of tongues like that which we read of in the gospels at Pentecost. Prophecy is the telling of events that only God would be able to know in His omniscience. So, to put it simply, prophecy is a miracle of God’s omniscience, while miracles are miracles of His omnipotence. The Catechism also stated that God sometimes reveals things to wicked men or uses them in working His miracles, such as the writing on the wall presented to the evil king. But it did say that in most cases, God will use His own servants to use as instruments in His miracles or prophecies.
One of the most interesting things that I learned from the catechism on faith is that those who are of good will and life find their way to the truth, for it is the truth they want, and whatever they hold to, they hold to it because it is the closest thing to the truth they have been able to reach. Such was the case with me as a Protestant. I don’t know if you could call a Protestant ‘devout’…but if there was such a term, I suppose that might apply. I wanted the truth and I thought what I had was the truth. I loved God and I wanted to live a life pleasing to Him. The sad part of that story was that I did not have His grace, being outside the Church. I could only do so much, and what I did do was on the part of God’s mercy to bring me to the truth. Unfortunately, I was trapped in a spiral of mortal sin that was out of my control, because I did not have the fullness of truth; therefore, I did not have the fullness of God’s grace which was the only thing that could pull me out. I wanted to turn away from it and after committing the sin each time, I beat my breast and cried out to God. “Why do I keep doing this?” Then I found the truth one day because of an overheard conversation. If that was not a direct reply, I don’t know what was. “Protestantism is a false religion.” And if it was a false religion, that meant I did not have the truth or the helps of God to get out of this deadly trap. As a matter of fact, I was a slave to the devil and did not have the means–belonging to the Church and partaking of the Sacraments–to break free. But my will was good. Somehow, amidst all of that sin, my will was good. I did not do it, because I cannot tell you how it happened or why. All I know is that God preserved my will and brought me to the truth.
After that overheard conversation, I confronted the Catholic who’d said those dire words and demanded that he explain himself. He showed me, on a nice evening overlooking the parking lot on campus, all about the Catholic faith, and even had to explain to me then about the errors of Vatican II (which I had unfortunately tried to rely on to convince him that I could be a Protestant and part of the church as well…wouldn’t that have been unfortunate, to be on the brink of converting to the truth and then read the errors of Vatican II saying, “Stay as you are, it’s okay?” Thanks be to God that I had my Catholic friend to explain this error.). I went away from that conversation still pigheaded in my desire to prove him wrong, but my thoughts had been opened. I began to research fiercely, digging through Scripture and comparing it with the bits Catholic teaching my friend had been kind enough to impart to me that evening.
And somehow, one day as I walked through the cafeteria on campus, a revelation seized upon me. “If he is telling the truth, I am damned.” I knew I couldn’t let this ‘sleeping dog’ lie, because in reality it was a ferocious wolf that would seize me the moment I turned my nose up at the prospect of looking into it. This inspired more research, more conversations with the friend, more explanations and more miniature conversions in my own heart and mind. I even let my friend teach me how to say the Rosary (because, I reasoned, if this is to one day be my faith, I ought to learn its practices). I began to say the Rosary each night and for some reason a devotion to it, even as a Protestant/catechumen, seized me and I couldn’t give it up. I wanted the truth, no matter what it was. If it was this new faith, so be it. If it was the old, so be it. Whatever it was, that’s what I wanted. My salvation was at stake, along with my relationship with God (little did I know that it was only beginning after four years of being a Protestant!). I had to find out at the peril of my soul. What was the truth? I had to have it!
Well, after a lot of catechesis, 8 months worth of hearing Sunday masses, devotion to the daily Rosary and many discussions with my wonderful pastor and with my Catholic friend (now my future husband!), I was baptized as a Catholic. By the grace of God, the spiral of mortal sin that was dragging me to hell in chains was broken (and is to this day!). All because of a God-given, vehement desire for the TRUTH! He never fails those who are devoted to seeking Him. We must always have faith in this God Who rescues those who are damning themselves, opens the eyes of the blind and opens the ears of the deaf. All He asks is that we desire Him, for He is Truth. We cannot afford to be indifferent to the Truth. It is worth any price we may be asked to pay. For me so far, it has been close relationships with family and friends and my reputation (people think I have been brainwashed!). But in return I have gained the only true gem to be found in this world: the Truth, the holy faith of our fathers, membership in the true Church of Christ (not to mention a brand new family of fellow Catholics, a best friend/future husband, and a holy and wise spiritual father!). God is never outdone in generosity. Whatever we give up willingly for Him, He restores to us, whether here on earth or in heaven, manifold.
I know I was going to get to some other things on this post, but I feel it is too long already (haha!). But I thought my story might be worth sharing. I may try to discuss some of the other things I’ve learned in another post this week. Thank you all for reading, and may God bless you all!
This…I needed this so much, and need it every day of my life. O My Merciful God, deliver me from the poison of scruples! Help me to serve Thee in childlike trust, obedience and gladness!
If the devil can’t get us one way, he will try another, won’t he?
This excerpt is from the wonderful book Light and Peace by Quadrupani. It is one book that I have always had on hand. I have passed it on to my family and my friends because of the wise and balanced words between the covers.
How much these wise words are needed today:
1. There are persons who look upon scrupulosity as a virtue…
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Well, tomorrow is the day. In less than 24 hours, if God is willing, I will walk across the stage and end a four-year chapter of my life. In reality, I suppose it is more of a 17-18 year chapter, seeing as I have been in school for, well, as long as I can remember. School and education will always hold a special place in my heart. As a child in elementary and middle school, I loved learning. The ways my teachers found to show me things, their explanations, their drawings and videos and pictures…even then I knew they poured themselves out in order to instill something in my mind. I valued that…and I still value it. I cannot quite explain it, but when I learn something new about the world, or pore over my Catechism, or read a blog on writing advice, and something clicks…it is indescribable what happens in my soul. God knew that our only Good would be to know Him as He is. If there is so much joy from the tidbits of learning and understanding that we can receive here in this life…imagine…or at least try to…what it will be like, if we can run the race to the end, to see and to know God in His many perfections. I will get to how integrity relates to the things I’ve learned this week. You’ll have to allow me this tangent because I have been an emotional wreck this week and I am distraught over possibly leaving behind school forever. Please forgive me, but I want to talk about learning for a paragraph or two (or four.
I think love of learning led me, at least in part, to my conversion. My curiosity about the world has been a part of me from the beginning. This curiosity is more theoretical, I suppose. I want to know the nature of things, how they work, why they are the way they are. My curiosity was not so much a hands-on thing, as a more inventive type of intuitive person might be. I did not much care for physical knowledge…I wanted to know theories and explanations and those sorts of things. I would listen in on conversations that adults would have around me, and from there I would pick up on many things that the adults probably didn’t realize. Sometimes my picked-up knowledge about a situation would surprise an adult in my life. I tended to be analytical, wanting the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of everything. I would take things apart and make records of things in my journal. Yes, as a 6-year-old, I was writing in a journal, a very colorful Lisa Frank journal with a dolphin and a sunset on the cover, and a lock to keep out prying eyes. I went through several such journals throughout my childhood. They filled slowly but carefully with poems, drawings, stickers, emotional ventings, stories, and records of my ‘students’, a.k.a., my dolls that I liked to play school with.
So throughout my childhood, despite my behavioral problems, I internally loved school. I hated getting in trouble, but I loved school. Learning about the world, the animals, the days of the week, the alphabet, and even the computer (back then computers were still desktops and we still used floppies and Netscape Navigator) was a joy. I liked science as well, and watching documentaries. My favorites were “The Most Extreme”, a show run by Animal Planet back in the early 2000’s, “Mythbusters”, and “How It’s Made.” Here recently I have discovered a wonderful documentary about Earth, called “Privileged Planet.” I recommend it to anyone; it incited within me some intense thinking and brought me to a sort of intellectual/spiritual high point…not sure how to explain it, and I include my reaction at the risk of sounding hippie-ish. But I was so much in awe of God and His creation, and His wisdom in creating Earth exactly where and how He created it…that I was brought to tears. Did I mention I love astronomy? Haha.
All this to say, I suppose, that I never want to stop learning, and I don’t think I will be able to stop learning, although the official years of schooling are over. And what joy it brings my heart to know that my future husband has found his calling in education, and in primary education, of all things! Those years were my favorite in school. He will be very special to his students, I hope, as my teachers were very special to me. As an adult, I see the many restrictions and regulations that teachers had to go by, and which are becoming worse every year, it seems. The fact that they (and my parents) instilled and encouraged a love of learning in me despite all that red tape astounds me. I pray that God blesses them for all they have done. And I think this love of learning that has been instilled in me has led to my conversion, simply for the fact that my curiosity wouldn’t let me leave a simple question alone, a question generated by an overheard conversation: Is what I believe true? Our Lady, by the Rosary, led me to pursue the truth, to study, to hearing wise and holy priests and teachers in sermons and personal conversations, to the Catechism, and even through the Rosary itself, which is a teacher and reminder of the mysteries of the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. I can’t thank her enough for all that she has done for me! +Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+
Alright. Now to the integrity thing. I can relate it to something that happened yesterday. I had a paper due by 12:30. I obediently got up a bit after 8, got ready, said my morning prayers, and made breakfast. Then I settled in in the living room with my laptop and with Spongebob on the TV. I should have known better than to try to watch TV and work on a paper at the same time. But I didn’t want to feel alone in the house, and I thought that with writing my last paper I should do something fun. Needless to say, I didn’t get much work done. Thankfully the paper (which was actually the first chapter of my novel for my Creative Writing class) was already ‘written’…it just needed organization and a few tweaks to be deemed ready to turn in. However, I barely got those things done, and turned in something that was sub-standard, at least for my own personal frame of reference for my work. True, the tactic I’ve been taking with my novel drafting is a ‘no-looking-back’ strategy; in other words, I turn off the internal editor that wants to go back and fix everything and just keep writing. If I take a wrong turn, I just start from where I left off and make a note that I need to go back and adjust everything.
So the draft itself was kind of a mess of fragments. Realizing that the clock was getting closer and closer to 12, I threw in a few transitions, fixed a couple of places where I needed to look up a fact, and took out a part I knew would be confusing or irrelevant. Then I fixed up the formatting. My friend had come over to work on her paper as well. So at 12:15 we both rushed downstairs to my room/office and I printed off her papers she had emailed to me. When it came time to print my paper, though, the pages got out of order and then finally, to top it off, my black ink ran dry. Never one to be put off (read: I was panicked!), I pulled out the black remanufactured ink cartridge I had just bought from Amazon and changed out the cartridges. Now, my printer is a bit on the touchy side. If you interrupt it, it will hate you and refuse to work thereafter. Well, my printer does an alignment every time you change the ink. And me, in my rushed panic, frantically hit the cancel button and yanked the alignment page out of the printer. Little did I realize that the alignment was a crucial step in setting up the ink cartridge.
Needless to say, after I rushed the printer and tried to print off my paper, the printer got its revenge and instead of obediently printing, sent an error message to my computer reading “Cartridge failed or is damaged.” My friend and I tried for about 45 minutes to get the printer to read the cartridge. We tried everything, from hard resetting, turning it off and on again (thank you, IT Crowd…), to changing out the old cartridges and then replacing them with the new once again, to cleaning the ink cartridge and the slot it is placed in…eventually, we gave up. Realizing the printer only liked the color ink cartridge (because I let THAT one align…), we printed my paper in gray scale and rushed to turn our papers in. So, I ended up turning in a LATE paper as well as a SUBSTANDARD paper, all because I did not have the integrity to plan ahead, leave extra time and make conditions for myself that were conducive to quality work. That’s what I get for waiting ’til the morning of AND putting myself in the occasion to be distracted from my work.
Now, integrity is all about putting your best into everything that you do, and making sure that it is quality work that will stand on its own. This applies to our service to God, our duties of our state of life…anything you can think of wherein you have to put in work. When we settle for less than our best, substandard work, it reflects back on us–and on God. We should strive to do all that we do for the glory of God, and not for our own glory. But when we let standards slip, our integrity will be ruined and our name diminished in the eyes of others, especially when they know us and know the quality of our work. This especially reflects back on the One Whom we serve–how can we call ourselves servants of God if we are not striving to please Him and give Him our all? The servant is not above his Master, and we would be fools to think that we are not expected to serve Him to the best of our ability, when He so willingly and humbly served others, and was obedient unto death for us! He gave His all for us. The least we can do is give our all for Him, and never let a mediocre day go by. True, we must have time for rest and recreation. But even those things should be done for the glory of God. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, DRA).
Don’t be like me. Don’t finish your college career in the regrettable knowledge that your final assignment was not your best work. Don’t let laziness or sloth keep you from practicing integrity in all that you do. Serve God always, in your duties, in your prayers, in your rest and meals and recreation, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And always be a genuine friend, which also requires integrity.
“Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Colossians 3:23, DRA).
+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+
P.S. Don’t forget: Today is First Friday! It is always good to practice the First Friday devotions if you can, and if not, to say some special prayers. My personal practice is to say the Litany to the Sacred Heart and the Consecration of the World to the Sacred Heart. Just some suggestions. May God bless you all!