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Sunday, 18 November 2012

On Perfection and Indifference

Following up this theme of the possibility of the lay person achieving the sanctity of one in the religious life must be presented along with the idea that the lay person has duties and graces from baptism. As the sacrament which makes one a child of God and heir to heaven, the sacrament changes one forever. The ebb and flow of the active and contemplative life can be adjusted in a lay life, but with great difficulty. What the nuns and monks have is a greenhouse situation tailor made for the pursuit of perfection, which therefore, happens more readily and quickly. That we are not in this special environment, or called to the obedience, and strict observance of rules does not let us off the hook in the pursuit of perfection. In addition, I look at the lives of SS. Teresa of Avila, Bernard, and many others, realizing that they were busy in the world as well.

The contemplative prayer and meditation allowed them to be effective in the world. St. Catherine of Siena was a great player in the world, despite or because of her intense interior life. How can we do this, while working or studying, or commuting? Of course, the singing of the seven hours and the silence is not possible, but the ebb and flow of being attuned to grace in a balance of activity and reflection must be possible. The Jesuits managed it for centuries. The key is discipline of a different sort We waste so much time and miss the pursuit of holiness in that waste. We also miss the vision of holiness by concentrating on nonessentials. So, how can a lay person follow the purgative, illuminative and unitive way? First of all, one must find a good spiritual director.

This is very hard, as I know from personal experience. Secondly, one must believe that every event in one's life has been ordained by God. That the pattern of one's life reveals the way to holiness. One may be following, by God's choice, the way of affirmation or the way of negation.

Suffering comes to us all, but the way of negation would include a life of suffering and denial, imposed by the Holy Spirit. Once one realizes the pattern and sees how God is working, through love in one's life, the vocation is seen more clearly. For example, I thought my life was a series of failures. God showed me that none of these events were failures but part of the larger pattern of the breaking down of my desires for worldly things, pleasures, success, a place in the sun. What the nuns learn by being obedient to Mother Prioress, God has taught me through suffering of a different kind. Both ways lead to self-denial and finally, to an indifference.

Indifference is key. One must not care what happens, not in a quietist way (see previous posts on this danger of quietism) but, in the acceptance of the Will of God, and the freedom of the thrall of slavery to things and relationships not ordained by God. Those saints who have been martyred did not come to their martyrdom easily, but through a process of steps, which freed them to experience pain and loss of status, prestige, life. St. Oliver Plunkett, for example, was a great bishop, but slandered and treated with contempt. How many of us could absorb that type of hatred without his humility and the grace of God?

But, laity, this is possible for us as well. Believe me, that the Church and God in His Trinity wants us to reach out and be saints NOW. We are being prepared for heaven daily.