Self-forgetfulness—letting the Love of God Consume Our Lives

Objective truth series – Reflection #22

In our last several reflections we have been considering focusing more and more on our eternal goal, the work of our lives, namely, the salvation of our souls.  We penetrated more deeply what it really means to save our souls—to see the Beatific Vision!

The emptiness of this world is easy to see especially when we compare this world to the delights of heaven.  We can easily conclude that to see God is worth all the efforts we can make.  Certainly as God gives us a greater desire for heaven, He increases our love for Him.   Yet, there is another aspect of our love of God which emerges especially when we see the world getting more godless every day, namely, the hunger and desire we have to see God loved.  St. Therese of Lisieux wrote in a prayer she composed to the Holy Face, “I am consumed with the desire to love Thee and make Thee loved by all men.”

When we consider how there is so much craziness going on around us in the world, we see the huge apparent sprint of the evil globalists as they try to get more control of everything with each new day.  Furthermore, these globalists have a clear agenda to erase God and His Commandments from the face of the earth.  It is so tempting to only consider our own current dangers and to get anxious about what will happen to us.  However, we must remind ourselves that we are in God’s Providential Hands and there is much consolation in this truth.  Indeed, we also know that God is allowing these events in order to perfect our souls.    

And yet, our focus should naturally turn from ourselves, to the innumerable insults that are hurled against God, His Church, His Blessed Mother, and His Saints.  We can see by the blatant attacks of the enemy, that God is so hated in these neo-pagan times of this great apostasy.  Our hearts ache out of love for God and a desire to console Him.  We should remember that just devotedly doing our duty-of-state with love for God, is a very important way to give Him glory and console Him.   

In this way, too, we begin the life of self-forgetfulness.  The simple focus on wanting to please God and work for His Glory, not only increases our love for Him, but also is God’s means to increase His Divine Friendship in our souls.  God is great and merciful to shower such undeserved goodness on His poor creatures!

 “He must increase: but I must decrease.” [St. John 3:30]  These words of St. John the Baptist apply to us as we strive to do all we can for the greater honor and glory of God and to show Him all our love.  But, more than this, is that this decreasing of ourselves in our own view of ourselves, naturally brings us lower and lower until we see our utter nothingness.  This nothingness does not disturb us because we see it as our natural place.   As Our Lord told St. Catherine of Sienna, “You are she who is not and I am He Who is.”  We are nothing and God is our all.

When we get caught up in our daily service of God and our neighbor out of love for God, our lives are busy working for God and our neighbor.  We may find ourselves trying to help our neighbor in many ways.  Some examples may be: trying to keep up our neighbor’s morale in these times when irrational fears are being pushed on everyone; trying to keep him informed when we are surrounded by false news; trying to convert others back to the pre-Vatican II Faith; or teaching others about the traditional uncompromising Faith which they have never heard about [seeing that we are now 56 years post Vatican II].  “The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few.” [St. Matt. 9:37]

With so much work to do for God’s Glory and to show Him our love, there really is no time or concern to think about ourselves.   We are glad to do all we can for God and spend ourselves in His service.  This is what it means to let our lives be consumed in the love of God.  What a mercy of God to let us serve Him and He accepts our poor service!

Besides such good works to our neighbor for love of God, we’ll find that we love spending time in prayer— adoring God; telling Him our sorrow for our own sins and the sins of the hateful world; telling Him over and over again that we love Him; and thanking Him for all His Goodness and Mercies He has shown to us.

God’s sculpturing of our souls slowly over time does bring many changes in our souls which includes the soul becoming more selfless.  He works patiently on us and if we are docile, His chiseling will not seem painful to us.  We can sense that He is steadily chipping away our selfishness and we naturally find that we want to do things for Him more because we love Him more and more.  In addition, as we see things in the world falling apart around us, and because we know that we do not in any way deserve God’s wonderful mercies that He has showered upon us, our hearts cannot help counting our blessings often.  How could gratitude not grow with each passing day?  We want to do something for Him to thank Him.  We want to share our blessings with other souls!  A consuming need to love God takes over and the desire to see Him loved is part of this. 

With grateful hearts, may God let us burn in the fire of the consummation of His Love!  This is how Divine Friendship works— to spread His Glory, to be spent in His service,  and to care about nothing else than Him!  Oh, if we could truly say like St. Paul, “And I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me.” [Gal. 2:20]—with heartfelt pangs of love for God we would want to say something like the following:

 For God alone must be my goal,

Only He can full-please a soul,

 Focusing on myself would be,

Like living a lie—death to me.

 

 

To keep my focus on God entire

Brings on love and my soul’s desire

To become selfless, melting flame

To make of God, my only aim.

 

This fits His plan for souls that see,

Solely for Him should the soul be,

The lifetime goal, the soul’s one end

To have Him, as a Divine Friend.

 

With things all ‘round falling apart,

Thus, to tear, God out of each heart,

The devil spreads hatred so wide,

Ne’er wanting souls, to be God’s bride.

 

Fret then, just distracting the soul,

From the purpose of man’s true role,

Intimate union with The Spouse,

Evil seeks this Friendship to douse.

 

The Devil sows then fears and dread

Wanting souls to hate God instead

‘Gainst love of God, and true good deeds

He tempts men to desire false “needs”

 

 So bitter hatred fills the air

And each day more fall to despair

Insults to God are hurled galore

Than seemingly ever before

 

Our souls ache to repair these crimes

The wretched evils of our times,

To give God the glory— His due,

 Knowing He, is loved, by so few.

 

And to help poor folks so confused

Who are attacked and ill-used

Who search for truth, so hard to find

They’re led like sheep to keep them blind.

 

Out of love we help our neighbor,

 Gladly for God do we labor,

For Him our life tirelessly spend,

Knowing by this we love our Friend.

 

Working hard ‘til our eyes grow dim,

Doing all out of love for Him,

Wanting nothing than be consumed,

Giving all until we’re entombed.

 

If we like St. Paul can self-forget

We can grow more in love yet

With our dear Lord, Our Spouse Divine,

E’er adoring the Mystic Vine!

A Great Desire for Heaven

Objective truth series – Reflection #21

In our last reflection we considered how we must die to ourselves in order to work out our salvation.  Because we had already considered working out our salvation in fear and trembling, it logically followed that we must consider working on detachment from our bodies through penance.  In like manner, after considering that doing penance is a way to prepare for the release of our souls from our bodies, the benefit of detachment from the things of this world is also easy to see.

Once one is more detached from this world, the more he finds he is focused on attaining his true home, namely, heaven.  In St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s book Sermons for Sundays, he has an excellent sermon on heaven for the second Sunday of Lent.  He has four key points or reasons why we should ponder heaven and seek heaven.  Indeed any one of these reasons alone would be enough to convince us to ask God earnestly for a great desire for heaven.  Let us consider these four points one at a time.

1) “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.”  (1 Cor. 2:9)

Concerning this point St. Alphonsus describes the beauty we should be longing for.  He says, “According to the Apostle, no man on this earth can comprehend the infinite blessings which God has prepared for the souls that love Him.”[1]

St. Alphonsus goes on to comment that people on earth are so focused on using only their senses and says:

Perhaps we imagine that the beauty of heaven resembles that of a wide extended plain covered with the verdure of spring, interspersed with trees in full bloom, and abounding in birds fluttering about and singing on every side; or, that it is like the beauty of a garden full of fruits and flowers, and surrounded by fountains in continual play.  Oh!  What a Paradise, to behold such a plain, or such a garden! But, oh!  How much greater are the beauties of heaven!  Speaking of Paradise, St. Bernard says: O man, if you wish to understand the blessings of heaven, know that in that happy country there is nothing which can be disagreeable, and everything that you can desire.[2]

St. Alphonsus not only talks about heaven being agreeable to the senses, he goes on to explain more about how all the soul’s desires are satisfied in heaven. 

2) In heaven you have all you can desire. ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ (Apoc. 21:4-5.).[3]  Concerning this point, St. Alphonsus expounds how all our senses will be delighted, saying:

There everything is new; new beauties, new delights, new joys. There all our desires shall be satisfied. The sight shall be satiated with beholding the beauty of that city. How delightful to behold a city in which the streets should be of crystal, the houses of silver, the windows of gold, and all adorned with the most beautiful flowers. But, oh! How much more beautiful shall be the city of Paradise! The beauty of the place shall be heightened by the beauty of the inhabitants, who are all clothed in royal robes; for, according to St. Augustine, they are all kings. How delighted to behold Mary, the queen of heaven, who shall appear more beautiful than all the other citizens of Paradise!  But, what it must be to behold the beauty of Jesus Christ!  St. Teresa once saw one of the hands of Jesus Christ, and was struck with astonishment at the sight of such beauty. The smell shall be satiated with odors, but with the odors of Paradise. The hearing shall be satiated with the harmony of the celestial choirs. St. Francis once heard for a moment an angel playing on a violin, and he almost died through joy. How delightful must it be to hear the saints and angels singing the divine praises! “They shall praise thee for ever and ever.” (Ps. 83:5.) What must it be to hear Mary praising God!  St. Francis de Sales says, that, as the singing of the nightingale in the wood surpasses that of all other birds, so the voice of Mary is far superior to that of all the other saints. In a word, there are in Paradise all the delights which man can desire.”[4]

St. Alphonsus explains how these pleasures of the senses are nothing compared to the actual Beatific Vision.  In his next point he concentrates directly on this Vision.

3) We see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12.)  St. Alphonsus explains: “The delights of the soul infinitely surpass all the pleasures of the senses. Even in this life divine love infuses such sweetness into the soul when God communicates Himself to her [viz., the soul], that the body is raised from the earth.  St. Peter of Alcantara once fell into such an ecstasy of love, that, taking hold of a tree, he drew it up from the roots, and raised it with him on high.”[5]

St. Alphonsus continues:

How great is the sweetness which a soul experiences, when, in the time of prayer, God, by a ray of His own light, shows to her [viz., the soul] His goodness and His mercies towards her, and particularly the love which Jesus Christ has borne to her in His passion! She feels her heart melting, and as it were dissolved through love.  But in this life we do not see God as He really is: we see Him as it were in the dark. We see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face.”  (1 Cor. 13:12.)  Here below God is hidden from our view; we can see Him only with the eyes of faith: how great shall be our happiness when the veil shall be raised, and we shall be permitted to behold God face to face!  We shall then see His beauty, His greatness, His perfection, His amiableness, and His immense love for our souls.[6]

In the three points above St. Alphonsus gives us beautiful incentives to long for heaven in a speculative or thoughtful way, but he adds another incentive which is more of a practical one as well:

4) God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Apoc. 21:4).

Concerning this point, St. Alphonsus tells how our earthly trials will end, saying:

But, after entering into Paradise, the blest shall have no more sorrows. God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”  The Lord shall dry up the tears which they have shed in this life.  And death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And He that sat on the throne, said: “Behold, I make all things new.” (Apoc. 21:4, 5.)  In Paradise, death and the fear of death are no more: in that place of bliss there are no sorrows, no infirmities, no poverty, no inconveniencies, no vicissitudes of day or night, of cold or of heat.  In that kingdom there is a continual day, always serene, a continual spring, always blooming.  In Paradise there are no persecutions, no envy; for all love each other with tenderness and each rejoices at the happiness of the others, as if it were his own.  There is no more fear of eternal perdition; for the soul confirmed in grace can neither sin nor lose God.[7]

St. Alphonsus then adds these consoling words:

In beholding the beauty of God, the soul shall be so inflamed and so inebriated with divine love, that she [viz., the soul] shall remain happily lost in God; for she shall entirely forget herself, and for all eternity shall think only of loving and praising the immense good which she shall possess forever, without the fear of having it in her power ever to lose it. In this life, holy souls love God; but they cannot love him with all their strength, nor can they always actually love him.  St. Thomas teaches that this perfect love is only given to the citizens of heaven, who love God with their whole heart, and never cease to love Him actually.[8]

These extracts from St. Alphonsus’s beautiful sermon truly show us that we should beg God for a great desire for heaven.  When one asks God for something which is good for the soul, God answers the prayer in a marvelous way. Our Lord Himself told us to seek the kingdom of heaven, saying, “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” [St. Matt. 6:33].

Once God sparks the flame of this desire in the soul, all the things in this world cease to have any real charm or attraction.  This earthly journey is viewed as only an exile because the soul longs for heaven so much.

It is truly an undeserved blessing from God to have a desire for heaven and to be able to see through the allurements of the world—travel, entertainments, and shallow amusements. Then a soul sees the sheer emptiness of this world and all creatures in comparison with God.  God becomes more and more the absolute center of one’s life. God really comes first and He is the basis for all decisions made.  If a soul has this blessing, it is evident because this blessing is very tangible.  Indeed, the soul shutters in fear of losing this insight from God and this objective view of life, of time, and of eternity.  He finds himself begging God to allow him to keep this objective view. In fact, he finds himself begging that God won’t allow him to abandon objective truth.  This outlook is so undeserved.  One knows this to the very marrow of one’s bones.  One feels grateful and tells God thank-you.  With the flame of desire for heaven lighted in the soul, one yearns for heaven everyday more and more and the evils of the present life make our exile here felt evermore keenly.  One could naturally find himself wanting to soar to the heavenly heights to be united with Our Lord, Our Lady, and our heavenly helpers. The soul might express its longing in words such as these:

Oh my soul it is time to die,

For all thy hopes in God must lie,

Doing penance is the sure way,

To break free from the world each day.

 

At the same time desire does grow,

And a need of God more to know,

Detaching thee from worldly cares,

 Well aware of, all of life’s snares.

 

Then with eyes raised, to thy true home,

Keep thou focused, want not to roam,

‘Cause earth is, a distracting sea,

Make it to have, no part with thee.

 

Then burning in thy heart will flame,

Yearning for heaven thy sole aim,

Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard,

Desire for heaven is now stirred!

 

 St. Alphonsus teaches so well,

Aching for heav’n, the heart must swell,

Ev’ry delight for ev’ry sense,

Our heart was made that we go hence.

 

Heav’n is more than just higher goal,

‘Tis the one desire, of a soul.

 To stay ever with Love Divine,

Aspire for this, oh soul of mine!

 

Far better than mere sight or sound,

For Divine View, we must be bound,

To keep in mind this View sublime,

The goal of each step, in life’s climb.  

 

 The fulfillment of ev’ry hope,

The one purpose of this life’s scope,

To land safely on heaven’s shore,

Where grief will end forevermore.

 

This wicked world with wicked trends,

My soul and it will ne’er be friends,

This fact makes it easier still,

To want to ever do God’s Will.

 

To burn with more intense desire,

Dear Mary help me to aspire,

So when my death breaks earthly ties,

My soul with thee may ever rise.



[1]           Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, by the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, eighth edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.  (Emphasis in the original).

 

[2]           Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, by the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, eighth edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.  (Emphasis in the original).

[3]           Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, by the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, eighth edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.  (Emphasis in the original).

 

[4]           Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, by the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, eighth edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.  (Emphasis in the original; bracketed words added for clarity).

[5]           Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, by the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, eighth edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.  (Emphasis in the original; bracketed words added for clarity).

[6]           Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, by the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, eighth edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.  (Emphasis in the original).

[7]           Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, by the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, eighth edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.  (Emphasis in the original).

 

[8]           Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year, by St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori, by the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth, eighth edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.  (Emphasis in the original; bracketed words added for clarity).

 

It is a Good Thing to Ask for Tears of Compunction

Objective truth series – Reflection #19

  “With fear and trembling work out your salvation.” (Phil. 2; 12).

In our last reflection, we addressed what it means to have an eternal perspective of life, namely, to live for our last end.  We must work out our salvation every day, and at no waking moment can we stop laboring at this crucial task. 

But what in particular do we think about when considering the salvation of our soul?  It would seem that if we really penetrated the reality that we can lose our souls, we would tremble and quake.   This reality is what St. Paul is admonishing us about in his Epistle to the Philippians.  We simply cannot take our salvation for granted.

We speak of fear and trembling.  One can speak of two kinds of fear—servile fear and filial fear.  Servile fear is the fear of being punished for an evil we’ve done, i.e., as a slave’s fear of his master.  Filial fear is the fear a son has towards his father because the son does not want to displease his father. Filial fear is based on love.

As Catholics we are taught from our childhood to fear hell as a place of punishment and torment.  However, God expects us to have filial fear of Him and that we will want to please Him always.

We know that we owe God everything, and that we owe Him gratitude for everything He has done for us.  We further know that we do not fear God’s Justice enough and we do not love God as we ought.  For example, St. John Chrysostom when referring to the sins of rash judgment, anger, and detraction as being such general vices among men, says, “What hopes of salvation remain for the generality of mankind, who commit without reflection, some or other of these crimes, one of which is enough to damn a soul?”[1]

This quote gives one pause and invokes fear.  What hope do we have of salvation when we are so guilty of so many crimes against Our Dear Lord?  Naturally, compunction should seize our hearts.  Compungere, which means the sting of conscience, should be what we want in order to weep for our sins.  We should consider these words of Our Lord, “Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved much,” which refer to St. Mary Magdalene who was washing His feet with her tears [St. Luke 7; 47].  This quote, coupled with St. Peter’s words, “Charity covereth a multitude of sins,” [1st St. Peter 4:8] should make us want to weep for our sins in order to console Our Lord and Our Lady for the many sins and insults we have committed against them.

Especially in these times of the great apostasy and chastisement, we should want to pray and weep for the offenses that are continually being hurled against Our Lord and Our Lady.  We know that we deserve the punishments of a chastisement for our sins.  Our Lord and Our Lady have told us of the necessity of penance.   Our Lady of Fatima insisted on us praying the Rosary and performing sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for peace to be obtained through the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.   

Our Lady’s remedy is not unlike what St. John Chrysostom recommended during his times. As Alban Butler summarizes St. John Chrysostom’s books On Compunction, he notes how St. John prescribes a life of mortification and penance as an essential condition for maintaining a spirit of compunction.  Butler refers to St. John Chrysostom’s analogy that water and fire are not more contrary to each other than a life of softness and delights is opposed to compunction.  In the same vein, Butler relates how Chrysostom states that a love of pleasure renders the soul heavy and altogether earthly; but compunction gives the soul wings, by which she raises herself above all created things.  St. John Chrysostom mentions, too, how Our Lord blesses those who mourn for their sins.

With all of the above in mind, let us not forget to turn to Mary, our Mother of Sorrows, and ask her to teach us about the malice of sin and how much pain we have caused her Divine Son.  She, better than all mankind put together, understands the massive weight of sin that her Beloved Son bore.  Her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart was pierced with a sword of sorrow.  She was a first-hand witness of the sufferings of Our Lord.  This is why tradition teaches that she is the Co-Redemptrix and the Queen of Martyrs because she stood at the Foot of the Cross offering herself in union with her Divine Son.

So, begging Our Lord through Our Lady for the gift of tears of compunction, we pray that our hearts can melt.  If we ponder the Passion of Our Lord, the innocence of Our Lady, and how we have both afflicted Our Lord and Our Lady, perhaps our cheeks would be moistened as we say the following:

Oh, if only we could full keep,

The love of Our Lord and Lady deep,

In our minds, each day and night,

How would we bear the sight?

 

Of so much grief, for this blest pair,

For their sorrow, beyond compare,

Attend and see if there like be,

Sorrow that pierced the heart of she,

 

Who was chosen to watch her Son,

And stay with her, beloved One,

While journeyed He, each step with pain,

The ground covered, with precious Stain

 

If tears could well up, as we see,

Each awful wound endured by Thee,

But could our hearts melt like wax,

Tears of Thee, Lord, would we dare ask?

 

Yeah, Lord Thy heart did yield wax-like,

 Poured out like water, without dike,

The nails dug deep, Thy wrist and feet,

With growing love, could our hearts beat?

 

If tears could flow in rivers too,

But woe to us they are so few,

Beg we do now, for an increase

And weeping let us, never cease.

 

Our sins have caused Thee, pain so great,

We cannot full appreciate,

 What our malice has done to Thee,

And the price of, iniquity.

 

And with fear then, do let us quake,

Seeing what Thou, bore for our sake,

 Not displease Thee, in any way,

Working to save, our souls each day. 

 

Mary, our Mother of sorrow,

 Assist us with each new morrow

Without thee, we cannot endure,

And our love cannot, be pure.

 

Mary, us, with compunction fill,

With melted hearts our tears can spill,

 Such a gift, we do not deserve,

From the right path, let us not swerve!



[1]           Of course, our catechism teaches us that the three conditions for mortal sin are: 1) it must be a serious matter or considered to be a serious matter; 2) sufficient reflection; and 3) full consent of the will.  See, e.g., Baltimore Catechism #3, Q.282.  St. John Chrysostom here alludes to sinners becoming callous to their grievous vices.