It is a mistake to think that only priests or religious can attain to a life of profound prayer.
A religious priest, the biographer of a young girl of the world who had been an example of magnificent fidelity and the recipient of singular graces from God, recounts that one of the theologians who examined the book expressed great admiration for the young girl.
“People believe,” he said, “that the great graces of contemplation are scarcely ever found in the midst of the world. I have found in cloisters and monasteries and among the clergy, souls who have received astonishing graces of light and of ease in prayer. I can therefore speak from experience.
However, the two souls who seemed to me to be the most favored were neither priests nor nuns but two persons living in the world, two mothers of families. “
He added, “They were far from being complacent about the favors they received; they believed them to be quite natural and never dreamed that they themselves were singularly privileged.”
And all that while living in the world as married women!
Then we have the example of a doctor, an excellent practitioner in a large city, much in demand because of his great skill and superior knowledge. Note his deep life of prayer as revealed from the following quotations from some of his letters:
“I recollect myself in the course of my professional visits, going from one duty to another, those duties which present themselves to me so clearly as acts of charity to my neighbor in whom I have the impression of ministering to the suffering Christ.
In the interval which separates one act of charity from another, there spontaneously wells up in my heart irresistible movements of adoration, a necessary worship of praise, a humble and self- abasing offering of my impotence, a very real pain at being separated from the Well-Beloved of my soul, and, in the midst of it all, a consoling peace and a strong leaning on God who lifts me above depressing physical fatigue and wearing privation.”
Another time he wrote: “The sight of souls so little concerned about God causes me pain and heartache. I should like to see all creatures praise God, concern themselves solely with Him and refer all to Him. I have great difficulty lending myself to the thousand little things of here-below which have no direct connection with God.”
This interior union with God in no way hindered his exterior ministry. With what soul power did he accomplish it!
“In the midst of overwhelming activities, an impression of profound solitude enfolds my soul. Action is no longer anything more for me than the accomplishment of duty, for the only duty of my life, leaving out of the picture any consideration of this frightful I and accomplishing everything for a single purpose always present, always engulfing me—God.
One might say that there is substituted for the egoism which is proper to me a power which is foreign to me but which draws me on while exercising over my will a force which impels and which is ever new.”
In his last letter dated August, 1936, we have these thoughts.
“It has pleased God (I should never think of asking Him for it) to grant me six months of immobilization because of a cardiac lesion. A Garden of Gethsemane? Amen.
“I was formerly taught what adoration and thanksgiving mean. Now I am immersed in adoration and thanksgiving. I have been taught that we fulfill the highest apostolate in the place where God for all eternity wants us to be. Therefore, I say three times over Amen and Thank You, my God.”
Perhaps on reading the beautiful selections from the doctor’s letters I have somewhat envied his union with God. Perhaps there arose in my mind the question: “What would I have to do to achieve such close intimacy with God?”
First of all, I must remember that such a degree of union with God is in the domain of gratuitous gifts. Our Lord gives them or does not give them as He sees fit. That is His own concern.
In themselves, these gifts are no forecast of sanctity in the person who receives them.
Someone can be quite perfect and never receive these favors; a person can be most faithful and attentive but either because of special difficulties of temperament or of capacity or because of God’s permission he will never receive like gifts.
By the very fact that they are gratuitous, they are inherently out of proportion with human efforts. They are liberalities of God that we are powerless to merit in the formal sense of the term.
I am walking along the boulevard; I meet several poor persons along the way; I give something to the second not to the first, to the fifth and not to the fourth. To none of them do I owe a thing. I have bestowed a favor pure and simple and no one can lay claim to my bounty as his due.
So too with the special favors we are considering. They manifest the munificence of God and do not prove the holiness of the recipient.
It is evident though that if God is free to bestow extraordinary graces according to His own will, in general, He dispenses them to those who by their generosity have given assurance beforehand that these favors will fall on good ground.
If by right they are purely gratuitous, in fact they most often recompense a generosity that is particularly ardent, a devotedness and a striving that has been heroically maintained.
In practice, I should let God play His hand. He is well-versed in what He is doing.
I should not presume to dictate to Him the method He should follow.
I can play my hand too. His very own specialty is liberality; mine should be generous love. I ought to be bent on giving, not on receiving.
If in the course of my life of striving, God is pleased to give me a keener relish of Him, an understanding of Him beyond my knowledge of His perfections, a love for prayer and for sacrifices He will have free sway in me.
I shall praise Him with my whole soul; but it is not to win these favors that I intend to push my fervor to its peak.
If, on the contrary, He lets me on the level of common prayer and the ordinary state of the general run of people; if He even abandons me to a spell of aridity–a common trial of earth–either for periods of time or perhaps permanently, I shall cast myself upon His love and beg Him to insure my faith in Him and to preserve my fidelity.
I know what I am worth–not very much.
The soldier ought to serve. If his Captain notices him and puts him on the list for the Legion of Honor, fine!
A red ribbon, however, adds nothing to the value of a man. He is worth what he gives and not what he receives.
I shall strive to give much.
It would do much in the home if all the members of the family were to be as kind and courteous to one another as they are to guests. The visitor receives bright smiles, pleasant words, constant attention, and the fruits of efforts to please. But the home folks are often cross, rude, selfish, and faultfinding toward one another. Are not our own as worthy of our love and care as is the stranger temporarily within our gates? -My Prayer Book, Father Lasance http://amzn.to/2wwagG0 (afflink)
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