I am going through some ‘stuff’ right now; some personal issues as well as the usual anxieties about world and national events. The latter are bothersome, but I’ve gotten to realize that there’s not much I can do about them apart from prayer. The personal stuff is very worrying and those worries intrude on my limited personal time (evenings and a short weekend.)
This post is on “Four things to help you get through difficult times” and although they are not new to me nor probably to you, I have been reacquainted with them in my recent spiritual readings and recollections. They are beginning to help me cope with the difficulties that are besetting me.
I have a two-hour Holy Hour on Friday evenings and the one on February 18th spurred much of this. I read a lot of what St. Maximillian Kolbe wrote on ‘suffering’ during that Holy Hour and it summarized or synthesized the entirety of traditional Catholic teachings on it. So here is the first thing:
Suffering. It shows that God is pruning you of pride and self-love; that bearing up with suffering in the spirit of ‘taking up your Cross’ will give you greater glory in Heaven; in a related note, that God is preparing your soul for special graces and this will mark you in a special way when your Earthly exile is over. Now, I had known this, and have even blogged this before, but I needed a reminder. St. Maximilian’s simple and unadorned way of writing helped to knock some sense into me and in presenting these time-honored truths in his simple style, brought them to me as if I was being introduced to them for the first time! That was an amazing Holy Hour. It was as if Jesus knew I needed a primer on suffering and got St. Max to teach me.
The next three things grew from that Friday.
The Present Moment is the second. St. Max didn’t write about this (or at least I can’t recall at this time,) but Mother Angelica of EWTN did write and talk about it a lot, and since I closely associate St. Maximilian with Mother Angelica (there are a lot of parallels in the development of their evangelical ministries), reading St. Max made me think of her and naturally her doctrine of the Present Moment. To describe it briefly, all we have is now. The past is left to God’s Divine Mercy, the future to His Divine Providence; leaving only the here and now to His Divine Grace. God does not give you His special helps (graces) for the past. Nor does He give it to you for the future. His graces are given to you for what is going on right now. This may help with things done in the past, such as healing from trauma and addiction and such, and He may give you a grace now that will develop into something for a future issue, but it is still given to you for where you are now. (The ‘Now’ could be regarded as the intersection of the past with the future; so that may help with understanding the previous sentence.) Anyway, being too worried about the future may cause you to not receive and cooperate with the graces being given to you now. In a way, it’s like you’re driving down a road, craning your neck out the window of your car to see something going on farther down, and a truck coming up from the right that you didn’t see collides with you. You would have seen it had you been paying attention. Ok, a little graphic, but it paints the picture. Naturally, since thinking about St. Max’s writings lead me to think about Mother Angelica, she got me to think about St. Faustina Kowalska, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy,” since Mother’s EWTN is the major promoter of the Divine Mercy devotion. St. Faustina wrote in her diary about the Present Moment:
2 “When I look into the future, I am frightened, But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me, As the future may never enter my soul at all.
It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.
O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of your omnipotence.
And so, trusting in Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering You each day this heart Burning with love for Your greater glory.
Trust in Jesus is the third thing. Since Max lead me to Angelica, and she lead me to Faustina, the big thing about the latter is the whole ‘Jesus I Trust in You’ theology of the Divine Mercy message. Trust in Jesus. He’s got your back, so to speak. He knows more than you do what’s going on with you, and why. Trusting in Him gives Him great delight; it allows Him to operate more freely within your soul, granting you the graces needed to help you get through ‘stuff.’ And it is a soothing balm to comfort you in trying times. All that is within your reach you can deal with; beyond that (the past, the future, and contemporary trials that are beyond your control) is in God’s hands. If your relationship with God has developed where you believe it’s now a personal one, then this should not be too hard. You love God, you know He loves you, it’s not hard to trust in the ones you love. I know, (trust me, I know!) that it is difficult at times to take that ‘leap of faith’ and believe that Jesus will ‘take care of the matter,’ but when this happens, think about all the times in the past when Jesus rescues you from a situation. Why would He abandon you now?
Trust in the Blessed Mother is the fourth thing. You have to have a pretty good devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary to get this. But it does bring things to a full circle; Maximilian took me to Angelica, who took me to Faustina who took me back to Maximilian. Not surprising since Faustina and Max were Polish contemporaries and their teachings parallel each other. St. Maximilian wrote that “Whatever does not depend upon our will is surely the will of the Immaculata.” This takes some meditation to get. In essence, he means that whatever is beyond the grasp of our will, falls within the grasp of Mary’s. It is his teaching, as well as that of many other great Marian saints, that Mary’s will is identical to that of God’s. Since Our Lady was conceived with Original Sin, she didn’t suffer concupiscence. She never sinned. Sin is essentially turning your will away from God’s. Therefore, her will was always united to God’s. So, we can conclude that since Our Lady is in Heaven watching over us and interceding on our behalf, what she wants for us is the same as what God wants. Trusting in the Blessed Mother and her maternal intercession is complementary to trusting in Divine Providence and Jesus. Our basic trust in Our Lady is evident in the Hail Mary prayer:
Hail Mary, Full of Grace;
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death.
There, she is praying for us now, and at some future time when we die. If you are consecrated to her in some manner, such as by the method of St. Louis de Montfort or St. Maximilian Kolbe, then you belong to her and are under her special protection as well as guidance. Entrust your problems, your ‘stuff’ to her and her Son. Using inspiration, graces, including perhaps signal graces, Jesus and Mary will lead, guide, console, and intervene. Patience is necessary since Heaven’s Time is not ours. But then we go back to the first thing, suffering, which we can offer up in redemption for our sins, those of others, and for the general intercessory powers of Heaven.
Now, regarding that quotation from St. Maximilian, “Whatever does not depend upon our will is surely the will of the Immaculata.” There is a tricky thing about that. Our will is that tricky thing. If our will is united to God’s will, to the best of our ability to discern that, then anything beyond that is the will of the Virgin Mary. And what depends upon our will is helped by God’s grace. That’s great. Solutions to the ‘stuff’ are in the works. But, if our will is mostly self-willed pride, and therefore divorced from God’s will, then there lies a problem. What depends upon our will is going to be a great struggle, a tremendous burden, and a trial. We may begin to doubt ourselves, our pride is wounded or we get angry and aggressive. Perhaps the ‘stuff’ that you are going through is the result of your self-willed pride. Perhaps not. (This is what I am attempting to discern about my ‘stuff.’ Am I doing God’s will? Or I’m not and I’m suffering as a result? Or I am and His will is for me to suffer the ‘stuff’ right now? Who knows? (And neither do you since I haven’t identified the ‘stuff’ I’m going through 😉 )Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)