Friday, September 30, 2016

Oct. 1, 2016: St. Therese of Lisieux

Oct. 1, 2016: St. Therese of Lisieux
Trusting God with St. Therese of Lisieux

Saints are human, superbly human. They live life as God intends us all to live it. They suffer as much as we would in their situations. They struggle against sin. They respond to their trials with heroic virtue. We should not confuse acceptance of grief with denial of it. Just as I used to think that Christians should never get angry at all, I also believed that sorrow meant a lack of trust in God. I thought acceptance of suffering meant not crying, not feeling wounded or lonely or lost. I’m astonished when I recall how recently I realized this was wrong.  

The older I got, the more tragedy I observed in the lives of those around me. My nephew contracted leukemia. A friend’s daughter died at age four. One of Dan’s friends from high school passed away. Life was suddenly fragile. It seemed only a matter of time before sorrow hit me more directly.  

At the same time, I was encountering more sin and weakness in myself than I had realized were there. Striving to follow the teachings of the Carmelite saints, I expected that soon I would have a conversion like Therese did. I expected God to come and take over the work that I was unable to do. Instead, I saw little progress against sin in my life. I couldn’t understand why God would not relieve me of my anger problem, for example.  

Getting stuck in the spiritual life caused me to ask questions I would never have considered before. Had the Carmelite saints erred? Was holiness just for the few, not the many? Could I really trust God? Could I even be sure that he existed?  

Focusing on the present 
Worrying about the future is pointless. We can only live in the present. Jesus told his disciples, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Mt 6: 34). God’s grace exists in the present. Remember when we discussed the question what if? Asking what if? distracts us from God’s plan. In a similar way, obsessing over the future paralyzes us. It restrains us from doing God’s will today. Today we have work to do. We have children to care for, jobs to carry out, prayers to offer. Today we can bring light to a neighbor in darkness. Today we can repent and forgive. God offers us the grace to endure at the moment that we meet with hardship, not before.  

Our culture, advanced in medicine and safety standards, has pushed death to the far corners of existence. Death affects our daily lives much less than it did the lives of our ancestors. The Martin family’s losses were common for the period. Our unfamiliarity with death, coupled with the demise of Christian culture, produces some pathetic offspring, metaphorically speaking. We spend thirty dollars for an ounce of wrinkle cream, thinking that if we stay young looking, we can ward off death. We cling to adolescent attitudes and behaviors. If we never grow up, perhaps we can live forever. We promote assisted suicide in the false belief that if we can control the manner of our death we will find peace. Yet peace eludes us.  

Jesus faced the Devil, sin, and death. He calls us to imitate him. “The trust taught by Christ is not based on a denial of the reality of suffering or evil” (SP 130). On the contrary, as Fr. Groeschel states, denying our fears jeopardizes our spiritual growth (ibid.). We cannot run away from suffering, unless we would run away from the Cross. No matter how much we imagine we control our lives, death will come in the end.  

Let us relinquish control to God. Let us learn to say along with God the Son, “Father, your will be done.” God is a tender Father, who holds our hands as we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” (Ps 23: 4) and who leads us beyond it to eternal life. Therese’s grieving for her father was natural and healing. She did not have to pretend to be strong. She just had to accept the Father’s will. She learned to lean on the Fatherhood of God. She entered even more into the way of spiritual childhood. -Connie Rossini, "Trusting God with St. Therese"