Beloved, as I think about the present state of our community in Tulsa – still without (knowledge of) a future home! – I want to tell you that, the more time passes, and with one mysterious “unhappening” after another, I, for one (and I can confidently say, the women with me) are growing more confident in our Lord’s leading and in His utter faithfulness to work all things together for good.
Faith is a gift. The more we trust God, through whatever trials, sufferings, and uncertainties He deems to send our way, the more our confidence in God (not in circumstances) is strengthened. In fact, we feel honored to be so tested in order that we may please His Heart by our trust and love.
Just today, I came across the excerpt below from the book, “The Art of Loving God,” written by our first and very beloved patron, St. Francis de Sales, who, in time, led us to St. Benedict! I do hope you are encouraged and strengthened by the wonderful words of this unique and saintly Doctor of the Church! His excerpt follows . . .
You ask me if a soul sensible of its own misery can go with great confidence to God. I reply that not only can the soul that knows its misery have great confidence in God, but that unless it has such knowledge, the soul cannot have true confidence in Him; for it is this true knowledge and confession of our misery that brings us to God.
All of the great saints–Job, David, and the rest–began every prayer with the confession of their own misery and unworthiness. And so it is a very good thing to acknowledge ourselves to be poor, vile, abject, and unworthy to appear in the presence of God.
“Know thyself”–that saying so celebrated among the ancients–may be understood as applying to the knowledge of the greatness and excellence of the soul (so that it may not be debased or profaned by things unworthy of its nobility); but it also may be taken to refer to the knowledge of our unworthiness, imperfection, and misery.
Now, the greater our knowledge of our own misery, the more profound will be our confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, for mercy and misery are so closely connected that the one cannot be exercised without the other. If God had not created man, He would still indeed have been perfect in goodness, but He would not have been actually merciful, since mercy can only be exercised toward the miserable.
You see, then, that the more miserable we know ourselves to be, the more occasion we have to confide in God, since we have nothing in ourselves in which we can trust. The mistrust of ourselves proceeds from the knowledge of our imperfections. It is a very good thing to mistrust ourselves, but how will it help us, unless we cast our whole confidence upon God and wait for His mercy? It is right that our daily faults and infidelities should cause us some shame and embarrassment when we appear before our Lord. We read of great souls like St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila, who, when they had fallen into some fault, were overwhelmed with shame.
Again, it is reasonable that, having offended God, we draw back a little in humility and from a feeling of embarrassment, for even if we have offended only a friend, we are ashamed to approach him. But it is quite certain that we must not remain at a distance, for the virtues of humility, abjection, and shame are intermediate virtues by which the soul must ascend to union with God.
There would be no point in accepting our nothingness and stripping ourselves of self (which is done by acts of self-abasement) if the result of this were not the total surrender of ourselves to God. St. Paul teaches us this when he says, “Strip yourselves of the old man, and put on the new”; for we must not remain unclothed, but must clothe ourselves anew with God. The reason for this little withdrawal is only so that we may better press on toward God by an act of love and confidence. We must never allow our shame to be attended with sadness and disquietude. That kind of shame proceeds from self-love, because we are troubled at not being perfect, not so much for the love of God, as for love of ourselves.
Act confidently regardless of your feelings
And even if you do not feel such confidence, you must still not fail to make acts of confidence, saying to our Lord, “Although, dear Lord, I have no feeling of confidence in Thee, I know all the same that Thou art my God, that I am wholly Thine, and that I have no hope but in Thy goodness; therefore I abandon myself entirely into Thy hands.”
It is always in our power to make these acts; although there may be difficulty, there is never impossibility. It is on these occasions and amid these difficulties that we ought to show fidelity to our Lord. For although we may make these acts without fervor and without satisfaction to ourselves, we must not distress ourselves about that; our Lord loves them better thus.
And do not say that you repeat them indeed but only with your lips; for if the heart did not will it, the lips would not utter a word. Having done this, be at peace, and without dwelling at all upon your trouble, speak to our Lord of other things.
The conclusion of this first point, then, is that it is very good for us to be covered with shame when we know and feel our misery and imperfection; but we must not stop there. Neither must the consciousness of these miseries discourage us; rather it should make us raise our hearts to God by a holy confidence, the foundation of which ought to be in Him and not in ourselves. And this is so inasmuch as we change and He never changes; He is as good and merciful when we are weak and imperfect as when we are strong and perfect. I always say that the throne of God’s mercy is our misery; therefore the greater our misery, the greater should be our confidence.
|In the beautiful words of the Apostle Paul, I say to you, “Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord . . . Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”|
In the love of the One who never fails . . .
Mother Miriam and Daughters
 St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), bishop, Doctor of the Church, and patron of writers, was ordained a priest in 1593. He was elected bishop of Geneva in 1602. With Jane Frances Frémyot, Baroness de Chantal, St. Francis founded the Visitation of Holy Mary (with whom I spent my canonical novitiate year) in Annecy, Savoy, France (where, together with the Sisters of the Visitation, I sat by the tombs of St. Francis and St. Jane in the 400th year of their founding). St. Francis, who became one of the Church’s greatest apologists, died in Lyons, France, on December 28, 1622 and was canonized in 1665. Possibly his most well-known writing is his, “Introduction to the Devout Life,” which I cannot recommend highly enough!