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Friday, 29 May 2015

Time for A Review on Providence in These Darkening Times

From Julian of Norwich:

God, of thy goodness, give me Thyself;
for Thou art enough for me,
and I can ask for nothing less
that can be full honor to Thee.
And if I ask anything that is less,
ever Shall I be in want,
for only in Thee have I all.” 
“...deeds are done which appear so evil to us and people suffer such terrible evils that it does not seem as though any good will ever come of them; and we consider this, sorrowing and grieving over it so that we cannot find peace in the blessed contemplation of God as we should do; and this is why: our reasoning powers are so blind now, so humble and so simple, that we cannot know the high, marvelous wisdom, the might and the goodness of the Holy Trinity. And this is what he means where he says, 'You shall see for yourself that all manner of things shall be well', as if he said, 'Pay attention to this now, faithfully and confidently, and at the end of time you will truly see it in the fullness of joy.” 
 Revelations of Divine Love

In February of 2012, the Pope Emeritus, then the active pope, stated this:

“In prayer we must be able to bring before God our fatigue, the suffering of certain situations and of certain days, our daily struggle to follow him and to be Christians, and even the weight of evil we see within us and around us, because he gives us hope, makes us aware of his nearness and gives us a little light on the path of life,” he said.

He also said that Christ in Gethsemane had to face the horror of accepting the punishment of all the sins of the world in order to overcome sin. We, too, get power to overcome sin and even death by accepting great suffering. By overcoming suffering and the anxiety suffering brings, we overcome  the limitations of our own will and become perfected through trials.

“Jesus tells us that only by conforming their will to the divine will can human beings achieve their true stature and become ‘divine.’”

Because of some serious problems in my own life, I have to return to contemplating Divine Providence. One must turn against one's feelings of stress and constriction in the face of troubles and turn to God in humility.

God allows trials and sufferings which are out of our control. Sometimes we cannot understand why such a trial has happened. This is my state at this moment. An odd thing which I did not expect has occurred which is very serious. In order not to succumb to stress or anxiety, I must turn to God in His perfect will and ignore my feelings and fears.

Such is the daily choice I make in trusting in Divine Providence.

Here is a bit of Garrigou-Lagrange on this, from his famous book, which is online. My comments are in blue.


19. Why And In What Matters We Should Abandon Ourselves To Providence

The doctrine of self-abandonment to divine providence is a doctrine obviously founded on the Gospel, but it has been falsely construed by the Quietists, who gave themselves up to a spiritual sloth, more or less renounced the struggle necessary for the attainment of perfection, and seriously depreciated the value and necessity of hope or confidence in God, of which true self-abandonment is a higher form.
But it is possible also to depart from the Gospel teaching on this point in a sense entirely opposite to that of the Quietists with their idle repose, by going to the other extreme of a useless disquiet and agitation.

Many priests in the confessional do not realize that anxiety is actually a sin. It is a lack of trust in God. Agitation cannot be in the soul at peace with God's Holy Will. This practice of the presence of God demands attention.

Now, some anxiety can be a physical, chemical imbalance in the body, but the common anxiety brought on by trials and suffering mostly reveals a giving in to fear and emotional responses to things.

Today, when I was anxious about a situation I do not want to share at this time, I remembered the Scriptures wherein Christ assured us that He was with us always, and would give us the right words to deal with those who hate Him. I, as well as you, Dear Readers, are up against those who hate God.

Here as elsewhere the truth is the culminating point lying between and transcending these two extreme conflicting errors. It behooves us therefore to determine exactly the meaning and import of the true doctrine of self-abandonment to the will of God if we are to be saved from these sophistries, which have no more than a false appearance of Christian perfection.

We shall first see why it is we should practice this self-abandonment to Providence, and then in what matters. After that we shall see what form it should take and what is the attitude of Providence toward those who abandon themselves completely to it.

We shall get our inspiration from the teaching of St. Francis de Sales, [50] Bossuet, [51] Pere Piny, O.P., [52] and Pere de Caussade, S.J. [53]

Why we should abandon ourselves to divine providence

The answer of every Christian will be that the reason lies in the wisdom and goodness of Providence. This is very true; nevertheless, if we are to have a proper understanding of the subject, if we are to avoid the error of the Quietists in renouncing more or less the virtue of hope and the struggle necessary for salvation, if we are to avoid also the other extreme of disquiet, precipitation, and a feverish, fruitless agitation, it is expedient for us to lay down four principles already somewhat accessible to natural reason and clearly set forth in revelation as found in Scripture. These principles underlying the true doctrine of self-abandonment, also bring out the motive inspiring it.
The first of these principles is that everything which comes to pass has been foreseen by God from all eternity, and has been willed or at least permitted by Him.

We have a hard time understanding that God allows, permits suffering. A famous interview of a British actor who reveals hatred of God because He allows children to get diseases reminds us that the atheist does not see God's glory in overcoming suffering. When one is "in suffering", yes, it it difficult to see beyond the edge of the trench and trust in God, but we are called to this trust.

God has permitted me to suffer several set-backs lately, one after another. These sufferings do require attention, but as those who have suffered know, one becomes physically exhausted with intense suffering. But, God has seen this moment of trial in which I find myself, with something completely out of my control from all time. Yes, He has also seen past decisions which may have led to this trial such as moving or even experiencing the sins of others against me. Some of our suffering we cause and some is caused by those who sin in our lives. But, God foresaw all these happenings. He has willed everything which happens for His Glory.

Nothing comes to pass either in the material or in the spiritual world, but God has foreseen it from all eternity; because with Him there ii no passing from ignorance to knowledge as with us, and He has nothing to learn from events as they occur. Not only has God foreseen everything that is happening now or will happen in the future, but whatever reality and goodness there is in these things He has willed; and whatever evil or moral disorder is in them, He has merely permitted. Holy Scripture is explicit on this point, and, as the councils have declared, no room is left for doubt in the matter.

This next point reminds us that God is in charge daily of all small, medium, and large events in our lives. Even if incongruous or mysterious evils occur, God has allowed these for His purposes. This is our faith

The second principle is that nothing can be willed or permitted by God that does not contribute to the end He purposed in creating, which is the manifestation of His goodness and infinite perfections, and the glory of the God-man Jesus Christ, His only Son. As St. Paul says (I Cor. 2: 23), "All are yours. And you are Christ's. And Christ is God's."

In addition to these two principles, there is a third, which St. Paul states thus (Rom. 8:28) : "We know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to His purpose, are called to be saints" and persevere in His love. God sees to it that everything contributes to their spiritual welfare, not only the grace He bestows on them, not only those natural qualities He endows them with, but sickness too, and contradictions and reverses; as St. Augustine tells us, even their very sins, which God only permits in order to lead them on to a truer humility and thereby to a purer love. It was thus He permitted the threefold denial of St. Peter, to make the great Apostle more humble, more mistrustful of self, and by this very means become stronger and trust more in the divine mercy.

The situation which is causing me suffering, a contradiction, a reversal, has been permitted by God to lead me to more humility, (yes, this is a great humiliation), and will, if I cooperate, lead me to trust in God much more than I have. Sometimes, when we have discernment and see the bigger picture of our little suffering, this pain increases our doubts, anxieties and all we can do is make a prayer of trust to God. I have placed one at the bottom of this post.

Frequently, Americans, who are "doers" and not contemplative, think they can fix everything with effort. This is simply not true. Sometimes one must accept keen trials inflicted not by sin, but by the "stuff of life" as one seminarian called this. "Things happen". 

But, Providence demands that we do become like little children trusting Our Father, and this may involve stages of trust. Three weeks ago, I encountered one stage, then, the following week a second, then, the third week brought another, and this week brings another test. Why?

So that I can practice trusting in God in many different types of situations, especially with those who no longer love Him or serve Him. Julian of Norwich wrote:

“He said not 'Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased'; but he said, 'Thou shalt not be overcome.” 

Garrigou-Lagrange continues.....

These first three principles may therefore be summed up in this way: Nothing comes to pass but God has foreseen it, willed it or at least permitted it. He wills nothing, permits nothing, unless for the manifestation of His goodness and infinite perfections, for the glory of His Son, and the welfare of those that love Him. In view of these three principles, it is evident that our trust in Providence cannot be too childlike, too steadfast. Indeed, we may go further and say that this trust in Providence should be blind as is our faith, the object of which is those mysteries that are non-evident and unseen (fides est de non visis) for we are certain beforehand that Providence is directing all things infallibly to a good purpose, and we are more convinced of the rectitude of His designs than we are of the best of our own intentions. Therefore, in abandoning ourselves to God, all we have to fear is that our submission will not be wholehearted enough. [54]

Fides est de non visis--living by faith and not by sight may be a challenge for many others than myself. I cannot see the end or even the middle of the trial in which I find myself. I cannot do anything but try and cooperate with the humility this trial brings. To be childlike, I must ask for grace, the grace of complete trust in God.

All I have to fear is what Garrigou-Lagrange states in the last sentence of the last paragraph here. I must fear displeasing God but not trusting Him, a sin which St. Teresa of Avila notes insults God.

God has allowed me to endure, at the end of three weeks, intense suffering which reminds me of the Desert Fathers in their search for humility. They sought the desert to find humility. I have been plunged into the desert.

Like St. Mary of Egypt, I have no protector on this earth but God Himself. He must be my help and my shield.

A prayer of trust:

Psalm 30 Douay-Rheims

30 Unto the end, a psalm for David, in an ecstasy.
In thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me never be confounded: deliver me in thy justice.
3 Bow down thy ear to me: make haste to deliver me. Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge, to save me.
For thou art my strength and my refuge; and for thy name's sake thou wilt lead me, and nourish me.
Thou wilt bring me out of this snare, which they have hidden for me: for thou art my protector.
6 Into thy hands I commend my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth.
Thou hast hated them that regard vanities, to no purpose. But I have hoped in the Lord:
I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy. For thou hast regarded my humility, thou hast saved my soul out of distresses.
9 And thou hast not shut me up in the hands of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a spacious place.
10 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am afflicted: my eye is troubled with wrath, my soul, and my belly:
11 For my life is wasted with grief: and my years in sighs. My strength is weakened through poverty and my bones are disturbed.
1I am become a reproach among all my enemies, and very much to my neighbours; and a fear to my acquaintance. They that saw me without fled from me.
13 I am forgotten as one dead from the heart. I am become as a vessel that is destroyed.
14 For I have heard the blame of many that dwell round about. While they assembled together against me, they consulted to take away my life.
15 But I have put my trust in thee, O Lord: I said: Thou art my God.
16 My lots are in thy hands. Deliver me out of the hands of my enemies; and from them that persecute me.
17 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; save me in thy mercy.
18 Let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon thee. Let the wicked be ashamed, and be brought down to hell.

19 Let deceitful lips be made dumb. Which speak iniquity against the just, with pride and abuse.
20 O how great is the multitude of thy sweetness, O Lord, which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men.
21 Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues.
22 Blessed be the Lord, for he hath shewn his wonderful mercy to me in a fortified city.
23 But I said in the excess of my mind: I am cast away from before thy eyes. Therefore thou hast heard the voice of my prayer, when I cried to thee.
24 O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord will require truth, and will repay them abundantly that act proudly.
25 Do ye manfully, and let your heart be strengthened, all ye that hope in the Lord.