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Sunday, 10 May 2015

On Not Getting Complacent/On Not Giving Up

One of my friends said she was getting tired of fighting evil...we have just begun after the first conversion. In the Dark Night, there are days, weeks, years where one may have zero consolation. 

St. Teresa emphasizes that the spiritual warfare lasts until the day we die. We never can give up the fight against the wiles of the demons, even though we do get tired and need sometimes to rest in God.
I think having recourse to our guardian angels at these times of battle fatigue can greatly help our energies. Here are a few words from St. Teresa on these battles:

We are like men whose enemies are at the door, who must not lay aside their arms, even while sleeping or eating, and are always in dread lest the foe should enter the fortress by some breach in the walls. O my Lord and my all! How canst Thou wish us to prize such a wretched existence? We could not desist from longing and begging Thee to take us from it, were it not for the hope of losing it for Thy sake or devoting it entirely to Thy service--and above all because we know it is Thy will that we should live. Since it is so, Let us die with Thee!' [87] as St. Thomas said, for to be away from Thee is but to die again and again, haunted as we are by the dread of losing Thee for ever! 

We all get tired of these battles. I think of the walk of Christ on the Via Dolorosa, and how fatigued He must have been carrying all the sins of the world on His back, which only a God could do. I beg God for strength and know that it is the Eucharist which gives such strength to all of us who love God. One can feel physically tired, and mentally tired, but the spiritual fatigued must be shared with other who are faithful. Can you imagine how excellent and faithful priests must feel under the stress of spiritual warfare, especially traditional, orthodox priests? Pray for priests, especially for Father Ripperger, Father Zuhlsdorf, Father Driscoll, Father Stefan, Father Mario, Father Miller, Father Y, Cardinal Burke, and many others. Do not take your priests for granted. If we feel tired walking with Christ to Gethsemane, can you pause and pray for these good priests? St. Teresa encourages her nuns to pray to the saints for aid, and so I pray to my favorites, and especially to those who have encounter some of the trials I have in life. 

 Here is Teresa on this point: 

 3. This is why I say, daughters, that we ought to ask our Lord as our boon to grant us one day to dwell in safety with the Saints, for with such fears, what pleasure can she enjoy whose only pleasure is to please God? Remember, many Saints have felt this as we do, and were even far more fervent, yet fell into grave sin, and we cannot be sure that God would stretch forth His hand to raise us from sin again to do such penance as they performed. This applies to extraordinary grace. [88] Truly, my daughters, I feel such terror as I tell you this, that I know not how to write it, nor even how to go on living, when I reflect upon it as I very often do. Beg of His Majesty, my daughters, to abide within me, for otherwise, what security could I feel, after a life so badly spent as mine has been?

Part of the battle is breaking away from habits of even venial sins-those habits begun in childhood and needing strict attention as an adult, if one has not dealt with these yet. Some priests state one should not think on sins of the past-but I had a great spiritual director in 2013 who said to confess those old sins, as they connect us with the matter of sin, the old habits. The matter of sin clings to the old man and part of purgation means looking again at those things which clog the soul. One may see the mini-series last year on the matter of sin, but one thing to do is to ask one's guardian angel for help. Just as the saints, as our brothers and sisters in heaven can aid us by interceding to Christ for us, so, our angels can help.

Our guardian angels can help us with the Matter of Sin. Because sin affects our intellects and imaginations, we can ask our guardian angels to enlighten us.

Here is what St. Thomas says. See here.

Natural reason, which is immediately from God, can be strengthened by an angel so that he may obtain from creatures a more perfect knowledge of God.

Intellectual operation and enlightenment can be understood in two ways.
First, on the part of the object understood; thus whoever understands or is enlightened, knows that he understands or is enlightened, because he knows that the object is made known to him.

Secondly, on the part of the principle; and thus it does not follow that whoever understands a truth, knows what the intellect is, which is the principle of the intellectual operation. In like manner not everyone who is enlightened by an angel, knows that he is enlightened by him.

If we ask our angels to help illuminate our minds, they will do so.

Here is St. Thomas again on this subject:

The demon cannot put thoughts in our minds by causing them from within, since the act of the cogitative faculty is subject to the will; nevertheless the devil is called the kindler of thoughts, inasmuch as he incites to thought, by the desire of the things thought of, by way of persuasion, or by rousing the passions. Damascene calls this because such a work is accomplished within. But good thoughts are attributed to a higher principle, namely, God, though they may be procured by the ministry of the kindling "a putting in" angels.

The will is moved only by God, but angels aid us in our intellect, our imagination and our senses.

Again, Thomas, and this is a long section on the influence of the imagination by both demons and the good angels:

Both a good and a bad angel by their own natural power can move the human imagination. This may be explained as follows. For it was said above (Question 110, Article 3), that corporeal nature obeys the angel as regards local movement, so that whatever can be caused by the local movement of bodies is subject to the natural power of the angels. Now it is manifest that imaginative apparitions are sometimes caused in us by the local movement of animal spirits and humors. Hence Aristotle says (De Somn. et Vigil.) [De Insomniis iii.], when assigning the cause of visions in dreams, that "when an animal sleeps, the blood descends in abundance to the sensitive principle, and movements descend with it," that is, the impressions left from the movements are preserved in the animal spirits, "and move the sensitive principle"; so that a certain appearance ensues, as if the sensitive principle were being then changed by the external objects themselves. Indeed, the commotion of the spirits and humors may be so great that such appearances may even occur to those who are awake, as is seen in mad people, and the like. So, as this happens by a natural disturbance of the humors, and sometimes also by the will of man who voluntarily imagines what he previously experienced, so also the same may be done by the power of a good or a bad angel, sometimes with alienation from the bodily senses, sometimes without such alienation.

Reply to Objection 1. The first principle of the imagination is from the sense in act. For we cannot imagine what we have never perceived by the senses, either wholly or partly; as a man born blind cannot imagine color. Sometimes, however, the imagination is informed in such a way that the act of the imaginative movement arises from the impressions preserved within.

Reply to Objection 2. An angel changes the imagination, not indeed by the impression of an imaginative form in no way previously received from the senses (for he cannot make a man born blind imagine color), but by local movement of the spirits and humors, as above explained.

Reply to Objection 3. The commingling of the angelic spirit with the human imagination is not a mingling of essences, but by reason of an effect which he produces in the imagination in the way above stated; so that he shows man what he [the angel] knows, but not in the way he knows.

Reply to Objection 4. An angel causing an imaginative vision, sometimes enlightens the intellect at the same time, so that it knows what these images signify; and then there is not deception. But sometimes by the angelic operation the similitudes of things only appear in the imagination; but neither then is deception caused by the angel, but by the defect in the intellect to whom such things appear. Thus neither was Christ a cause of deception when He spoke many things to the people inparables, which He did not explain to them.

Each one of us must cooperate with the guardian angels and not ignore each one's own duty to create a disciplined mind. One can see how important it is for one to control one's eyes, ears, indeed all the senses, and discipline the imagination.

Our sins are forgiven in the sacrament of confession, but we have "hang-overs" from sin. If any of you saw the 2010 Narnia movie which was based on the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, you will remember the scenes when Edmund is tempted by the dead queen, the White Witch, or Jadis to sin again. This weakness of the imagination is part of the Matter of Sin. (By the way, have there been other Narnia movies since this one?)

Now, Edmund's sin of betrayal was forgiven long ago by Aslan. But, because Edmund sinned, he has a memory of sin and a memory of temptation. The Matter of Sin is that weakness which comes into the mind, the heart and the imagination, as well as the will of one who sins.

The Matter of Sin is not present in a person who has not sinned, such as Mary, Our Mother, and St. John the Baptist. However, those who sin must be purified even of the Matter of Sin, the detritus of sin.

This purification happens in the Dark Night of the Spirit, when God takes over the mind, imagination, heart and will, having already dealt with the senses.The Matter of Sin is like Frodo's wound from Weathertop-a reminder of mortality and concupiscence given into.

Those great saints who allowed God to purify them while on earth and wrote about this process, such as SS. John of the Cross, Augustine, Teresa of Avila and others, have shared with us how to have purgatory on earth.
St. Therese, the Little Flower, also wrote about this process, which is the entire theme of my purification series.

Let God heal you and free you from the Matter of Sin, which can only happen after one truly repents and turn against sin. Like the layers of scales of Eustace the Dragon, we must be purged of selfishness.

Yesterday, I felt like St. Peter and walking away from the pain of mortification. Then, I remembered that the first pope turned against his temptation and returned to Rome and death.

Peter was not acting in a holy manner when he was running from Rome and death. He was avoiding his martyrdom, which takes the place of the passive purification. Martyrdom is a shortcut to purification, through intense pain, suffering and obedience to God's Will.

If one cooperates, the process of passive purification, the way most of us must take, states the experts, goes much more quickly, than if one fights suffering. This is why the nuns embrace the penances and poverty of their state. They are on the fast road to union with God.

Here is a helpful paragraph from Garrigou-Lagrange. I have read de Caussade several times and do highly recommend him. Also, of course, like many of you, I have read St. John of the Cross. I have read bits of the book by St. Francis de Sales and more lately, which is mentioned. I have not read Boudon.

There is, first of all, a general rule. These afflicted souls should be treated with kindness and helped that they may be led to full conformity to the divine will. The first rule of direction is that these souls should accept this trial generously for as long a time as, according to the good pleasure of God, it may last, and they should live in abandonment to the divine will. Moreover, as a general rule, the more generously they accept this purification, the quicker it will end, since the effect for which God wills it, will be more promptly accomplished. If it is more intense, it will generally be shorter (like the purification of purgatory) unless the soul is to suffer specially for sinners, over and above its personal purification.
Excellent books have been written on abandonment to Providence in this period of the spiritual life. Besides The Dark Night (Bk. II) of St. John of the Cross, there is the Treatise on The Love of God (Bk. IX) of St. Francis de Sales on the love of submission and of holy indifference in spiritual afflictions.(1) In the seventeenth century, Father A. Piny, O.P., wrote Le plus parfait, or the way of abandonment to the will of God, and also L'Etat du pur amour. In the same period we find Les saintes voies de la croix by the Venerable Henry Mary Boudon; in the eighteenth century, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Father de Caussade, S.J.; and recently (1919), Le saint abandon by Dom Vitalis Lehodey, O.C.R.

I have warned people about quietism two years in a blog or two, and here is a reminder from Garrigou-Lagrange.

In this question of abandonment, two dangers must be avoided: quietism and the opposing error. Quietism or semi-quietism denies the necessity of our cooperation and goes so far as to demand in these trials the sacrifice of our hope or desire of salvation.(2) On the contrary, we must in this case, as St. Paul says: "Against hope believe in hope." (3)

A delicate balance is needed between action and inaction. I believe the Holy Spirit can directly help here, and, of course, one must do what is needed in one's daily responsibilities.

The contrary error would consist in exaggerating the necessity of our cooperation while diminishing that of prayer and disregarding the efficacy of our petitions and the conduct of Providence which directs all. It would amount to a sort of practical naturalism. Tried souls should, on the contrary, pray particularly, ask the help of God to persevere in faith, trust, and love. They must be told that, if they continue to pray in this severe trial, it is a sign that, in spite of appearances, their prayer is granted; for no one can continue to pray without a new actual grace. And God who, from all eternity, has foreseen and willed our prayers, excites them in us.

Perseverance is a grace. One lives by Faith, which is hoping and trusting in God for that which is not seen.

To this general rule of the generous acceptance of the trial in conformity with the divine will, must be added three special rules relating to the three theological virtues, by which especially one must live during the night of the spirit.Here more particularly is verified the expression: "The just man liveth by faith." (4) The night of the spirit is that of faith whose object is obscure mysteries which appear so much the more obscure in proportion as they are higher above the senses. St. Thomas often says: "Fides est de non visis," the object of faith is things not seen. One does not believe on testimony what one sees.

I cannot emphasize this boldface section enough. Only by Faith and not anxiety or pushing or impatience, does the passive purification lead to light and finally, union with God. Teresa urges us to persistence. Peter showed us not to walk away. Keep going, even if the going seems like baby steps.