Tag Archives: feeling

28 February, Desert III: Serve Him there with good courage.

Traveler

We return to the letters of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal. On August 21 last year we read of her own times of dryness of heart: here she is writing to one of her sisters to encourage her when she feels nothing. She is being led through the desert whether she likes it or  not, but she is on a safe road.

Oh! but yes; just a word for my Little One. I beg of you, my dearest Sister, not to trouble about what you feel or do not feel—this I say once for all. Serve Our Lord as it pleases Him, and while He keeps you in the desert serve Him there with good courage. He made His dear Israelites spend forty years there, accomplishing a journey that they could have made in forty days. Take courage then, and be satisfied with saying, and being able to say, though without relish, “I wish to live wholly for God and never to offend Him;” and when you stumble, as is sure to happen (be it a hundred times a day), rise up again by an act of confidence. Do likewise towards your neighbour, be content with having the desire to love him, or desiring to desire it, and to procure for him all possible good, and, opportunity given, minister gently to him.

In short take bravely the road in which God leads you—it is a safe one, although you may not have all the light and satisfaction you would like; but it is quite time to abandon to Our Lord all these plans and desires, and to walk blindly, as divine Providence wills, believing that it will lead you aright.

Image from FMSL

Collected Letters of St Jane Frances de Chantal

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21 August: Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, Letters I.

chantal bw

 From a letter to Saint Francis de Sales, 1614. The two correspondents collaborated closely in the area that straddles today’s Franco-Swiss border. We could see Saint Jane’s mental state as pretty precarious from this letter, but she had raised a family, largely after her husband’s death, and founded the Sisters of the Visitation. Today is her feast day; let all who ever feel desperate take heart and hope from her weariness of self: she more than survived. I am sure this XIX Century engraving does her poor justice. Her letters are at Project Gutenburg.

This morning I am more wearisome to myself than usual. My interior state is so gravely defective that, in anguish of spirit, I see myself giving way on every side. Assuredly, my good Father, I am almost overwhelmed by this abyss of misery. The presence of God, which was formerly such a delight to me, now makes me tremble all over and shudder with fear. I bethink myself that the divine eye of Him whom I adore, with entire submission, pierces right through my soul looking with indignation upon all my thoughts, words and works. Death itself, it seems to me, would be less painful to bear than the distress of mind which this occasions, and I feel as if all things had power to harm me. I am afraid of everything; I live in dread, not because of harm to myself, but because I fear to displease God.

Oh, how far away His help seems! thinking of this I spent last night in great bitterness and could utter no other words than these, “My God, my God, alas! why hast Thou forsaken me.”

At daybreak God gave me a little light in the highest part of my soul, yet only there; but it was almost imperceptible; nor did the rest of my soul and its faculties share the enjoyment, which lasted only about the time of half a Hail Mary, then, trouble rushed back upon me with a mighty force, and all was darkness. Notwithstanding the weariness of this dereliction, I said, though in utter dryness, “Do, Lord, whatever is pleasing to Thee, I wish it. Annihilate me, I am content. Overwhelm me, I most sincerely desire it. Tear out, cut, burn, do just as Thou pleasest, I am Thine.”

God has shown me that He does not make much account of faith that comes of sentiment and emotions. This is why, though against my inclination, I never wish for sensible1 devotion. I do not desire it. God is enough for me. Notwithstanding my absolute misery I hope in Him, and I trust He will continue to support me so that His will may be accomplished in me.

Take my feeble heart into your hands, my true Father and Lord, and do what you see to be wisest with it.

The day after tomorrow we publish a contemporary reflection on ‘all ye that labour come to me’ which provides something of a reply to this letter. Tomorrow a Welsh saint who lived through most of the 17th Century. 

1Sensible here means ‘that can be felt’. It is possible to be devoted in practice to someone or to a task without feeling any measurable enthusiasm; which may be our calling for a moment or for years.

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November 9: Loving Memory.

gravecheriton1 (800x713)

Loving memory hurts: an extract from a letter Henry James wrote to Clare Sheridan, a newly wed and newly widowed soldier’s wife in the Great War.

I am incapable of telling you not to repine and rebel, because I have, to my cost, the imagination of all things, and because I am incapable of telling you not to feel. Feel, feel, I say — feel for all you’re worth. and even if it half kills you, for that is the only way to live, especially to live at this terrible pressure, and the only way to honour these admirable beings who are our pride and our inspiration.’

From ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ by Azar Nafisi, Harper Perennial, 2007, p217. The book describes life in Tehran under the Ayatollahs and during the Iran-Iraq war. Compelling reading.
Photo from Cheriton Cemetery, Folkestone; the grave of  another of the fallen. 

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Awareness?

margatesunset-21-1-17Margate Sunset, as beloved by JWM Turner.

 

My wife’s nursing magazine says this is ‘Sun Awareness Week’. I’m more aware of the cold North Wind today.

However the weather, here is a reflection on the sun, on not taking things for granted – and, appropriately after Christopher’s post yesterday, the Our Father. Click on the link to read Fr James Kurzynski’s post from the Vatican Observatory website.

Sun awareness

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April 5: Station II – Jesus came and walked with them.

Jesus came and walked with them,

but their eyes were held and they did not recognise him… [14-18]

 

Notice what is happening here. These two disciples are totally absorbed in what they’re talking about when they suddenly become aware of someone walking alongside them. They have no idea who this stranger is, and if we are to be with them —and learn with them—it is important that we don’t know either. It’s enough to notice the effect it has on them: they stop talking, and when he asks them what they’ve been talking about, ‘the two stood still, looking sad’. That simple question, asked by a stranger, stops them in their tracks and takes them to a new level of awareness—behind all their words there is a deep sadness, which shows in their faces.

That brief glimpse into what they are feeling, takes them to the heart of what is troubling them; it’s not about the surface detail of all the terrible things that have happened, but about what it all means…or does it mean anything? The stranger’s question strikes home in this way, and for a moment they can only stop talking and be silently aware of the weight of their feelings. It is an invitation to them to tell him what they have been talking about, but he will help them to do that in a deeper way, as they re-live the experience and register its personal emotional impact.

What is this like for us today?

What if a stranger came, clearly interested in what we’re talking about but apparently knowing nothing about what’s been happening—or not happening—in the Church? How would we react/respond?

  • Would we be like these two disciples? They were astonished that anyone could fail to know ‘what has been happening in Jerusalem these past few days’. But before that they are suddenly aware of what they’re feeling—what really matters is not what has happened in Jerusalem but how deeply they have been affected by it: sad, angry, confused, near despair… ‘Where is God?’That may be a place where we can stop too. Before saying any more about what has happened, or what it is that ‘makes us’ sad or angry, or whatever, in the Church: let the stranger’s question put us in touch with ourselves.
  • Where am I in this story [of what is happening in the Church]?
  • And what has happened, or is happening in me, as the story unfolds?
  • Why does it bother me so much? Why does it ‘weigh’ on me in the way it does?

JMcC

Milestone, Forth ad Clyde Canal, MMB.

 

 

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