Those who are my regular readers can imagine how pleased I was that Father Xavier told us in the audience, about two hundred people for the weekend, that we are all called to perfection. I wanted to tell him I had been writing about this for years and ask him some questions, but I did not have a chance to speak with this good priest, who is very popular in the state where I went for this retreat.
He quoted the Scripture which I have highlighted so many times here.
The route to perfection involves a daily walk with Christ. Father Xavier emphasized again and again how powerful Our Lady Mary is against demonic influences. To invoke her in prayer under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows is recommended by this good priest. As Mary suffered at the foot of the Cross, Father Xavier told us that she gained merit to be at such a high level of heaven that God has shared with her secrets of humans and demonic influences beyond the knowledge of any other human being. This was foretold by the prophet, Simeon, in the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. The secret thoughts of others would be laid bare to her. Therefore, she is our intercessor for freedom from oppression and obsession, the two most common types of attacks of the devil. If we go to Mary, our way shall be much easier, and devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows is one good way of moving towards perfection.
I also wanted to share with the priest that I belong to the Third Order of the Most Sorrowful Mother, but again, I did not have a chance to personally speak with him.
It is important, states Father, to engage in mortification. He referred to the new laws of fasting and abstinence in the Church and noted that these newer, less stringent rules do not help us all to form a habit of fasting and abstinence. The habit of fasting, Father stressed, is an absolute necessity for overcoming the temptations and the sins of the flesh, as these are from demonic suggestions. Again, as emphasized in Garrigou-Lagrange, and all the saints, the emotions cannot be relied upon, but are the place where demons deceit us the most.
Mortification controls the body where concupiscence lies since Original Sin, and mortification helps with complete detachment, again defined on this blog earlier, so that one can love God first, with one's whole heart, mind, soul, and will.
Father Xavier pointed out that a life of habitual fasting allows one to become strong in one's inner self, being able to say "no" to temptations. Such little things, like chocolate, can be a temptation to a greater thing, if one does not have a habit of saying no.
A person at the retreat who did not share her experience with the entire group, was once addicted to impulse shopping. She finally decided to get rid of her credit cards and only pay cash for things which was a mortification for her. This discipline worked, but Father warned us against excesses.
Father told us that demons loves excesses. Moderation is key, he noted, quoting Aristotle and the saints, that excesses can cause dangerous tendencies in the soul.
Two things which struck me from this talk were, one, that the embers of the flesh, the undertow of sin, is in one until one has reached a perfection, a freedom from all sin, which Father said is possible on this earth.
He told us to pray to Mary, Our Mother of Sorrows to show us each our predominant fault.
Those who read this blog recognize that there is a series on this subject. Follow the tags.
The second thing which struck me in this part of the retreat was a Father's reference to "hagiosthenia", which I may be spelling incorrectly, as I could not find a reference and do not have a Catholic Encyclopedia at hand. It is not in the one online.
This is the aversion to sacred things, such as holy cards, holy pictures, devotions, etc. brought about because of an excess of such. Apparition chasers, I add, may experience such a burning out of devotion, because moderation is necessary even in the spiritual life.
Moderation and mortification must go together as well, but a habit of fasting and abstinence is much more powerful than occasional mortification, which trains the body, mind, imagination and will to say "no".
The next posts, later today, with be on the importance of authority to combat demonic influences, again something written about here in the past, but needing fleshing out. And, the necessity of the life of the virtues in combating demonic influences.
I want to quote two saints which the priest did not refer to on mortification because of something Father said. He noted that if one is being awakened in the middle of the night, it means that God wants that person to get up and make a vigil with Him. I know many people who are experiencing this...including myself, for about four years.
Father Xavier said to get up and pray if this is happening, as it is mortification.
Saint Alphonsus d Ligouri -- "Some will say that perfection does not consist in the mortification of the body, but in the abnegation of the will. To them I answer with Father Pinamonti, that the fruit of the vineyard does not consist in the surrounding hedge; but still if the hedge be taken away, you will seek in vain for the produce of the vine."
"If we read the lives of the saints and see the works of penance that they performed, we shall be ashamed of the delicacy and of the reserve with which we chastise the flesh... Our pilgrimage on earth will not be of long duration: our home is eternity, where he who has practiced the greatest mortifications during life shall enjoy the greatest glory."
Saint Jean Marie Vianney: Oh, how I like those little mortifications that are seen by nobody, such as rising a quarter of an hour sooner, rising for a little while in the night to pray! but some people think of nothing but sleeping. There was once a solitary who had built himself a royal palace in the trunk of an oak tree; he had placed thorns inside of it, and he had fastened three stones over his head, so that when he raised himself or turned over he might feel the stones or the thorns. And we, we think of nothing but finding good beds, that we may sleep at our ease. We may refrain from warming ourselves; if we are sitting uncomfortably, we need not try to place ourselves better; if we are walking in our garden, we may deprive ourselves of some fruit that we should like; in preparing the food, we need not eat the little bits that offer themselves; we may deprive ourselves of seeing something pretty, which attracts our eyes, especially in the streets of great towns."