Monday, February 15, 2016

Lent for Little Souls Like Me

In his book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, Fr. Michael Gaitley discusses the way that St. Therese offers encouragement to "little souls," those of us too weak to make those great sacrifices that some of the saints offered to God. Instead we must trust in God's mercy and have faith that instead of a steep stairway, Jesus offers us an elevator!

"The good God would not inspire unattainable desires; I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to sanctity. For me to become greater is impossible; I must put up with myself just as I am with all my imperfections. But I wish to find the way to go to Heaven by a very straight, short, completely new little way. We are in a century of inventions; now one does not even have to take the trouble to climb the steps of a stairway; in the homes of the rich an elevator replaces them nicely. I, too, would like to find an elevator to lift me up to Jesus, for I am too little to climb the rough stairway of perfection." St. Therese of Lisieux

Oh, how I need that elevator! My spirit is so weak. I struggle even making the time to pray, to read scripture and other spiritual books, or to be consistent in my daily work in the home. This first week of Lent was so hard...making it to Mass on Ash Wednesday, one day of fasting, and two days of abstinence. I only made it to Ash Wednesday Mass because of his mercy and the help of my sweet children. I was ready to quit and take a nap with the baby when everything came together and a house-full of children in pajamas were ready for noon mass in a matter of minutes. I must continue rely on His grace, because I am truly incapable of offering anything to Him on my own. I am just a "bubble bath" Catholic. I like the conveniences of this world so much.

I have shared the story of the "Nun Run" trip I took while in college, where a large group of young women went to visit different convents around the country. At one of the convents, we stayed in beautiful turn of the century dorm-style rooms with big beds surrounded by curtains, antique furniture, and a community bathroom with stalls of clawfoot tubs.

I had been getting distracted and kind of bored with all of the talks and meditations, so as we'd been told we were free to take a break when we needed to, I took it upon myself to do just that. Instead of going to one of the talks, I went upstairs for a relaxing bath in one of those clawfoot tubs. Only afterwards did I realize that the big group photo (that's it, above!) was taken right after the talk and I was the only one missing, because I was in the bathtub! That's when I knew I wasn't cut out for the religious life!

I still love my baths, often a little too much. I am participating in a group study for the Consoling the Heart of Jesus book, where we read the book and study guide, watch a video of Fr. Gaitley, and then there's a weekly live group phone call which sadly I've rarely been able to join. The other day I caught up watching Father's videos while in a bubble bath and was thinking about what a "little soul" I am!

Abstaining from meat is so hard for me, I can't even imagine strict fasting. Five minutes of prayer is difficult, I can't fathom praying for an hour. The Stations of the Cross on Fridays seem like a marathon to attend with children, and the Triduum services an impossible dream! We try to eat less sweets and treats during Lent, and of course observe the traditional days of fasting and abstinence, create more family prayer time, pray the Stations at home or with friends, and attend the special church events when we can. But overall, I am just trying to be a better friend to Jesus.

In this book study I've been reminded of how much our Lord desires our hearts and is not asking Him, love our neighbor, follow the Commandments. Truly His burden is light. Father Gaitley shares of an experience where he was trying to complete all kinds of acts of self-denial, and yet he felt the Lord gently telling him that he merely wanted his friendship. Those gentle words of Jesus ring very true to me.

A particularly poignant quote by Mother Teresa:
"Jesus wants me to tell you again, how much is the love He has for each one of you - beyond all that you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus - one to one - you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel - but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love?

Do you really know the living Jesus - not from books, but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for this grace, He is longing to give it. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as a real living Person - not just an idea."

Our Holy Father Pope Francis also reminded us as Lent began that we should fast from indifference towards our neighbor. I don't necessarily have to give up certain foods or some other material thing to do that, although sometimes there are small obstacles (like electronics, bubble baths, etc.) that keep me from focusing on my neighbor. And in my case, my "neighbor" mostly consists of my immediate family members who I strive to love day in and day out, hour after hour!

During this Year of Mercy, and especially during this Lenten season, may we have a greater trust in God's mercy. May the "little souls" like me learn to trust Him more surely and ask for His help, knowing that we cannot do the works of God apart from His grace and mercy. The Prayer of Humble Access always speaks to me, especially recognizing that it is his "property is always to have mercy." Oh what a loving God we have! I wouldn't make it through Lent without His help!

Prayer of Humble Access 
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

So if you're a "little soul" like me, I hope you take comfort in some of these words. I hope you don't get discouraged by your inability to perform great acts of self-denial, to spend hours in meditation, or even to listen during Sunday Mass! And if you're not a church-goer, but desire it in your heart, ask Jesus for his grace and mercy to make it happen. He wants our friendship, and He will help us to be a better friend to Him and to others.

I will always remember some audio tapes I'd listen to in college, where an eloquent priest said in his booming voice, "HIS NAME IS MERCY." Jesus has mercy on our little hearts. He has created an elevator of grace to lift us to Heaven! So please rest in his love, just as little Thomas does in the photo above. The graces of the Lenten season are there for us, may we just remember to ask our merciful Jesus to shower them upon us!


Kristen said...

Thanks, Blair. That was great! I am especially fond of baths too, so I love that story about Nun Run. Too funny! I probably would have done the same thing!!! And all those familiar faces in the Has it really been that long?!

Unknown said...

You are so precious. What a beautifully written post. I often feel exactly the same way.

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