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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

"They Have No Wine" More from Father Chautard

In my twenties, my late twenties to be exact, I was involved in three areas of lay work in the Church. As Pope Benedict told us not to use the term "ministries" for lay work, I shall be obedient and not use that word.

I had been working in the Church as a lay person very actively for about seven six years, when I experienced "burn out". I went to my superiors and asked for "time out", which led to the dropping of all my areas of work. However, those above me simply did not understand why I was burnt out.

I understood that God had made me for interior work, such as research, scholarship, prayer, but those in the community where I had lived for several years, were all action oriented and very extroverted, strong people.

They did not understand my need for silence and solitude. My interior life grew once I took a break, but I ended up leaving that community, as God showed me where my real work was to be--in the college classroom. Spiritual warfare did not end, but I had the strength to deal with it. This is a key idea--if we are in the vocation to which God has called us, we can withstand the evils we meet, if we turn to God in prayer.

We must not stop doing God's work, but we must, like my friend, like myself, realize that we are limited to the grace God gives us. To pretend to transcend grace is the serious sin of presumption. We are not all the same type of saint.

The key is our own personal relationship with Christ and how Christ wants to use us in the Kingdom. This is not pop psychology on "gifts" but the reality that we are made for work in the Kingdom according to God's plan.

I was and am reminded of the Gospel concerning the first miracle of Christ--the changing of the water into wine. This is what God wants of us--our watery selves, are common souls changed into Him, His Blood going through our souls, minds, imagination, wills, not ours.

But, the wine also symbolizes, besides the need for the Eucharist, the absolute necessity for prayer, meditation, contemplation, the examen.

This wine gives us all the ways to develop the virtues of prudence, temperance, courage, and justice. And, it is our duty to growth in these virtues, through prayer, purification, and mortification.

Ask Mary for grace to pray. Ask Mary for grace to repent and be purified. Ask Mary for help in all things physical and spiritual. She asked Christ to change water into wine, and she will change our weaknesses into strength for the Kingdom and for our own salvation.

Let me go back to The Soul of the Apostolate for a minute.

Let us consider six main features of the way the interior life filters into a soul to establish it in genuine virtue.

 a. It Protects the Soul Against the Dangers of the Exterior Ministry 

“It is more difficult to live well, when one has care of souls, on account of the dangers from without,” says St. Thomas.24 We have spoken of these dangers in the preceding chapter. While the active worker who has no interior spirit is unaware of the dangers arising from his work, and thus resembles an unarmed traveler passing through a forest infested with brigands, the genuine apostle, for his part, dreads them and each day he takes precautions against them by a serious examination of conscience which reveals to him his weak points. If the interior life did nothing more than procure for us the advantage of realizing our incessant danger, it would already be contributing very much to our protection against surprises along our way; for to foresee a danger is half the battle in avoiding it. And yet the inner life has an even greater utility than merely this. It becomes, for the man engaged in the ministry, a complete set of armor. “Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.” 25 It is a divine armor which permits him not only to resist the temptations and avoid the snares set before him by the devil (that you may be able to resist in the evil day), but also to sanctify his every act (and stand in all things perfect). It girds him with purity of intention, which concentrates all his thoughts, desires, and affections upon God and keeps him from going astray and seeking his own comfort, pleasures, and distractions: “having your loins girt about with truth.” It puts on him the breastplate of charity, which gives him a manly heart and defends him against the seductions of creatures and of the spirit of the world, as well as against the assaults of the demon: “having on the breastplate of justice.” He is shod with discretion and reserve in order that in all that he does he may know how to combine the simplicity of the dove and the prudence of the serpent: “And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.” Satan and the world will try to deceive his intellect with the sophisms of false doctrine, and to sap his energies with the enticements of lax principles. But the interior life faces all these lies with the shield of faith, which keeps ever before our eyes the splendor of the divine ideal: “In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.” The soul will find, in the knowledge of its own nothingness, in care for its own salvation, in the conviction that we can do absolutely nothing without grace, and consequently need at all times insistent, suppliant, and frequent prayer (all the more efficacious in proportion to its confidence) — in all this the soul will find a brazen helmet against which all the blows of pride are dulled: “take unto you the helmet of salvation.” Thus armed from head to foot, the apostle can give himself without fear to good works, and his zeal, enkindled by meditation on the Gospel and fortified by the Bread of the Eucharist, will become a sword that will serve him both in combat against the enemies of his own soul and in conquest of a host of souls for Christ: “the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” 

b. It Renews the Strength of the Apostle 

Only a saint, as we have said, is able to keep intact the interior spirit and always direct all his thoughts and intentions to God alone, in the midst of a welter of occupations, and in habitual contact with the world. In such a one, every outlay of external activity is so supernaturalized and inflamed with charity that, far from diminishing his strength, it brings with it, necessarily, an increase of grace. In other people, even fervent souls, the supernatural life seems to suffer loss after more or less time spent in exterior occupations. Their less perfect hearts, too preoccupied with the good to be done to their neighbor, too absorbed with a compassion (for the woes to be alleviated) that is not nearly supernatural enough, seem to send up to God flames less pure, darkened with the smoke of numerous imperfections. God does not punish this weakness by a decrease of His grace, and does not demand a strict account of these failings, provided there is a serious attempt at vigilance and prayer in the midst of action, and that the soul is ready, when its work is done, to return to Him and rest and regain its strength. This habit of constantly beginning over again, which is necessitated by the combination of the active with the interior life, gives joy to His paternal Heart.

Remember the miracle of Moses regarding the punishment of God against the Egyptians by turning the Nile into blood? That was a sign of God's power to change ever nature for the sake of His People. Our own natures must be changed through repentance. This great sign which pointed to the power of God and the death of those who do not accept Him, (those who do not believe perish for turning against the Blood of Christ and will be called to explain why they did not listen to the Church's teaching on worthy Communion).

We see in God's punishment a warning to us all not to ignore the wine of prayer, of repentance, of metanoia, like Pharaoh and his people did. Blood was seen as "unclean" in Old Testament times, but Christ's Blood, He the true Anathemata, the reject one, killed outside the city limits of Jerusalem, like a scapegoat, as if He was an impure Sacrifice instead of the most pure, redeems us by His Blood. But, that same Christ will judge us severely for refusing His Sacrament of Life.

Besides, in those who really put up a fight, these imperfections become less and less serious and frequent in proportion as the soul learns to return, tirelessly, to Christ, whom we will always find ready to say to us: “Come back to Me, poor panting heart, athirst with the length of the course. Come and find in these living waters the secret of new energy for other journeys. Withdraw thyself a little from the crowd that is unable to offer thee the nourishment required by thy exhausted strength. Come apart and, rest a little™ In the peace and quiet thou shalt enjoy being with Me, not only wilt thou soon recapture thy first vigor, but also wilt thou learn how to do more work with less expense of strength. Elias, disheartened, discouraged, found his strength renewed in an instant by a certain mysterious bread. Even so, My apostle, in this enviable task of co-redeemer that it has pleased Me to impose upon thee, I offer thee the chance, both by My word, which is all life, and by My grace, that is, by My Blood, to direct thy spirit once again towards the horizons of eternity and to renew the pact of friendship between thy heart and Mine. Come, I will console thee for the sorrows and deceptions of the journey. And thou shalt temper once again the steel of thy resolutions in the furnace of My love.” “Come to Me all you that labor and are heavily burdened and I will refresh you.” “ 

c. It Multiplies His Energies and His Merits “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace which is Christ Jesus.”"” Grace is a participation in the life of the man-God. The creature possesses a certain measure of strength and can, in a certain sense, be qualified and defined as a force. But Christ is power in its very essence. In Him dwells in all its fullness the power of the Father, the omnipotence of divine action, and His Spirit is called the Spirit of Power. “O Jesus,” cries St. Gregory Nazianzen, “in Thee alone dwells all my strength.” 

I shall continue this later....pray for me, pray for the Church. When Christ comes back to judge us all, we shall see the Holy Wounds, as His Passion and Death saved us, but will also judge those who reject Him.