Spiritual Life: March 2012 Archives

God did not create us for suffering and renunciation, but for happiness, for life; not for an ephemeral happiness during life in this world, but for an eternal and unfailing life, which can be found in God alone. However, God passes by unnoticed by our senses, whereas the things of this world press upon us and entice us from all sides, leading us to seek our happiness in them.

From this arises the necessity of controlling and mortifying their immoderate tendency toward pleasure, their looking for satisfaction in creatures. For those who desire to attain to the fullness of life in God, St. John of the Cross, in full accord with the gospel, suggests that they gradually accustom themselves to gving up any sensory satisfaction that is not purely for the honor and glory of God. . .out of love for Jesus Christ. In his life, he had no other gratification, nor desired any other, than the fulfillment of his Father's will which he called his meat and food (Ascent of Mount Carmel I 13-4).

Again it is a question of not seeking our joy and delight in pleasures of sense, which satisfy selfishness, self-love, and attachment to creatures, but in the will of God, in what pleases him. If we would be spiritual persons, we must force ourselves to change the direction of our inclination toward pleasure by detaching it from the goods of earth and turning it decisively toward God, until we can repeat with Jesus: I always do what is pleasing to him (John 8:29).

Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD
Divine Intimacy
Compunction involves a moment of awakening, the first glimmer of enlightenment, the dawning of a new day lived against a different horizon. St. John Cassian, one of Benedict's principal sources, defines compunction as whatever can by God's grace waken our lukewarm and sleepy souls (Conferences 9:26)

This definition seems to envisage us living our spiritual lives in a slumberous state of half-wakefulness. The grace of compunction is the transition to a state of fuller awareness.

The great difference between the saints and the rest of us is that they were spiritually awake more of the time than we are; they were alert to possibilities. It is because they went through life in a state of greater consciousness that they were more conscientious in doing good and avoiding evil.

We who stumble through life with many mistakes and omissions admire their saintly deeds but without necessarily realizing that perhaps we could imitate them more closely if our spiritual senses were not so drowsy 

Michael Casey, OCSO
The Road to Eternal Life

In case you didn't know it, there are levels of happiness. You also may not know that God wants us to be happy in this life. Period. Can we open our eyes to what true happiness is?

Four levels of happiness that we encounter in our experience:

  1. happiness in a thing: I need a steak and a bourbon; I need that vacation
    1. problem: short-termed pleasure: the flashy new toy
    2. we are created more than a designer purse: 
    3. who's measure do we use for happiness?
    4. what do we really ask God for?

2. as persons we are more than comparative advantage, but we compare ourselves with others

      a. problem: the "advantage" has a limitation; it's effectiveness is not long-lasting nor does it account for the truth of who we really are as persons made in God's own image

3. finding joy in a sincere gift of self ... to a point

    1. problem: when the person to whom our joy is directed leaves, then what happens? Was our serving really sincere? What are the motivations in looking for joy in serving?
4. union with God: the only place where we find true peace, love and happiness; the beloved rests with the lover;
  1. we are restless until our hearts rest in the Lord
  2. God thirsts for you to thirst for Him
  3. what does it do to God when we thirst for a designer purse more than for God?
  4. why does a created thing take the priority over the creator?

We are meant, by God, to be happy in this life and in the next. You may be asking yourself: What are the requirements for attaining true happiness?

The saints (Augustine, Benedict, Dominic, Francis, Ignatius and Philip Neri) remind us of something crucial in the spiritual life, indeed, our life right now: we need to exercise the virtue of gratitude because of our dependence on God. Gratitude reminds that we are in need of grace but also to give of ourselves to another. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that gratitude is closely connected to the cardinal virtue of justice, by which we give what is due to others. But with gratitude there is actually a holy exchange between two people. One person benefits from a good act of another but also wants to repay the benefaction. Rahner spoke of giving alms at Mass as a way of being involved in the good works of the Church when giving personal time is not possible but no less important because while there is some sort of a bond among the pastor, the benefactor and beneficiary it is only made stronger because real faces are behind the dollar. Think of the times when we write a thank you note, make a promise of a deeper connection in friendship, or even the promise spiritual works of mercy. I frequently write, "know that you are in my prayers" to remind me and the person I am writing that I may not be able to give something material in return, but I can make a sacrifice of gratitude before God on behalf of another because of friendship. Gratitude and justice is rooted in charity, in love for another, because of the Other. I think of Blessed John Paul II's  insistence that we ought to make "a sincere gift of self."

Saint Ignatius tells us that to be ungrateful is a sin. Imagine if we account for acts of ingratitude in our daily examination of conscience even in Confession. How is it that today I can make a sincere gift of myself? Lent is a time to recall the concrete times we've been grateful and made a promise to pray for another.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Spiritual Life category from March 2012.

Spiritual Life: February 2012 is the previous archive.

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