Monday, May 20, 2013

"You are my Savior, who has always loved the sinner"

- from St. Jane de Chantal, 1572-1641

God gave me yet another fresh start this weekend through the grace of the Sacrament of Confession.  I went the same day as my youngest child's First Confession, the day before his First Holy Communion.  Usually I do not have the chance to prepare much for Confession as I usually go when there happens to be a priest hearing confessions on Sunday during Divine Liturgy.  Sometimes there is a priest, and sometimes there isn't.  But on Saturday, I knew there would be a priest so I did some actual preparation, a thorough examination of conscience. 

The priest probably didn't realize that it would be a longer, more thorough confession than my usual.  But he settled in, after hearing the little ones tell of their disobeying their parents in various ways, and heard me out.  He gave me some of the same advice that I had been "stumbling upon" on the days leading up to my Confession.

Part of it was the Serenity Prayer that many women attending Al-Anon receive.  My Mom had a little framed version, only about a 3" x 4" size on her dresser.  I had read it and prayed it many times.  It looked exactly like this:

The Serenity Prayer
After diving into the wealth of Scripture and the writings and prayers of the saints, it had fallen out of favor with me.  Then I heard it on the radio the other day.  It was the Catholic Channel, so I didn't dismiss it.  Then the priest mentioned it in his advice in the Confessional on Saturday.  So now I am thinking I need to stop dismissing it and start praying it more.
That first part, accepting the things I cannot change, that isn't just for spouses of alcoholics, as I may have attributed it, since my Mom got if from Al-Anon, but also for parents, especially mothers like me that don't know when to just be quiet and let their children make their choices.  Even when I know those choices are not optimal and will cost both them and us.
Somehow God lets us have this free will, even though he knows more than anyone the cost of sin, the cost in our lives and those in our lives, and the cost born physically and interiorly by his Son in his Passion and Death on the cross.
The second key part of my priest's advice that was echoed in the writing from St. Jane below is that God is always near, and he loves me.  I need to call to him in confidence for help when my buttons are being pushed or when I am tempted, as the first recourse.  It can become a habit, with God's grace, it will be my new habit of the rest of my life.
Confirmation came today from my reading of Galatians 5, and also on the advice of St. Jane de Chantal on Galatians 5:13-25 captured in The New Jerusalem Bible: Saints Devotional Edition.

1Christ set us free, so that we should remain free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be fastened again to the yoke of slavery.
13After all, brothers, you were called to be free; do not use your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love,14since the whole of the Law is summarized in the one commandment:  You must love your neighbor as yourself.  15If you go snapping at one another and tearing one another to pieces, take care:  you will be eaten up by one another (reminds me of married life, or conversations with my teenagers).
16Instead, I tell you, be guided by the Spirit, and you will no longer yield to self-indulgence. 17The desires of self-indulgence are always in opposition to the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are in opposition to self-indulgence:  they are opposites, one against the other; that is how you are prevented from doing the things that you want to. 18But when you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious:  sexual vice, impurity, and sensuality, 20the worship of false gods and sorcery; antagonisms and rivalry, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels, disagreements, 21factions and malice, drunkenness, orgies and all such things.  And about these, I tell you now as I have told you in the past, that people who behave in these ways will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22On the other hand the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, 23gentleness (meekness) and self-control (temperance); no law can touch such things as these.  24All who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with all its passions and its desires.
25Since we are living by the Spirit, let our behavior be guided by the Spirit.

As another confirmation in our Mothers-in-Prayer group this morning, one of the moms mentioned how nothing has changed since the first sin in the garden.  Pride and selfishness caused that sin, and those two still cause personal sin today.

St. Jane de Chantal wrote this letter to a close associate on how to correct evil inclinations with good behaviors--the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Emphasis added by me.

"My dearest daughter, may the good God inspire me to say what is for his glory and your consolation. (good way to begin a letter or a blog post :)  In my judgment all the repugnancies of which you speak, all your feelings, aversions, difficulties, are for your greater good.  And you are bound not to yield to them.  You should keep making resolutions every day to fight and resist them.  Yet when you fall--say as many as fifty times a day--never on any account be astonished or uneasy.  But quite gently reproach yourself and take up again the practice of the contrary virtue.  All the while speak words of love and confidence to our Lord.  Speak them just as much after you have fallen into a thousand faults as if you had fallen into one. Do not forget all that we have said to you on this subject.  Practice it for the love of God, assured that God will draw his glory and your perfection out of this weakness.  Never have a doubt on this point, and bear up bravely and sweetly whatever happens.  If sometimes you feel weak, cowardly, with no confidence in God, compel you lips to utter words the very opposite of your feelings, and say them firmly:  My Savior, my all, despite my miseries and my distrust, I trust you completely.  You are the strength of the weak, the refuge of the miserable, the wealth of the poor.  In a word, you are my Savior, who has always loved the sinner.  Now these and similar words, my dearest daughter, you can say--perhaps not with devotion or tears, but with set purpose.  Then pass on to divert your mind in some way, for the Almighty will not let you escape from his hand that has so securely captured you.  Don't you see how his sweet goodness comes to your aid in such a striking and beneficial way? -- St. Jane de Chantal, 1572-1641

Finally this beautiful verse celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church in Pentecost, and to each of us in our Baptism, Confirmation, and the many times in our lives when the Lord has given us a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit:

"(T)he love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." --Romans 5:5b

Faith and expressed confidence and trust in the love of God is a great gift, and when we act on it, we glorify Him!

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