I have very recently heard a lecture – a kind of catechesis – on dying, God’s Mercy, as well as particular and general (Last) judgment. There was almost nothing new there, just an important reminder of the four last things. A couple of things stood out for me, but two struck a personal note within me. I’d like to share it, though without revealing too many details about people other than myself.
Around two years ago, I went through a harrowing experience of first carrying and then giving birth to a baby with a lethal defect. She was indeed stillborn. That was hard in itself, but God helped me grow so much closer to Him, that I can only be grateful for that tragedy that affected me and my family. Very soon after it all happened I had a conversation with a family member, a militant atheist (at that time at least, but it seems that nothing has changed as yet), whose attitude and comments (also concerning that situation) made me cry almost as hard as when I first found out about my little girl’s disease. Spiritual death is, however, more difficult to embrace, because firstly that person may end up in Hell (even remembering there’s always hope), and secondly it’s the blow coming from somebody you’d never expected it to come from. I’m talking a really close relative.
That very evening, when I was in an un-Catholic spirit of hopelessness, pity and self-pity, I turned to the Word of God – first my paper Bible, then the online version. In both cases I opened (clicked on) it randomly. And yet I got exactly the same story at both times – two different Gospels. The story was about a paralytic man, carried to Jesus by four of his friends, lowered through the roof. And not only was he healed, he was also forgiven, and that was on account of his friends – not himself.
The story, as I understood it then, was today repeated by the priest with the exact same exegesis. We can help people that are like that paralytic man, who not only can’t walk themselves, they may not even be very willing, and clearly not necessarily believing. Yet even his sins were forgiven. That paralytic man still has to choose God of his own will – but the first and crucial step was made by somebody else. We can call those four men his intercessors.
The story gave me much needed hope and strength. Even if I prayed just out of some duty, it might help, but I actually desire that person’s, and all people’s, salvation. People that have been enslaved by sin and have rejected God, usually don’t even realize they need any help. It is up to us to discern, and show them mercy – even when they call it “spiritual violence”.
The second thing I’d like to touch on briefly (and I leave a link below to that movie I have watched) is the emphasis on the fact that God is outside of time. Based on what God said to Saint Faustina, and a story of Saint Padre Pio, the priest said that we can pray for people long gone – not meaning only for the souls in purgatory, but for the moments of their death. God after all knows – has always known – that we would pray one day for that person – for God all prayers are instantaneous. Reading lives of Saints, particularly those when a Saint practices the Holy Hour, one can clearly see that for God time is like one “moment” or “scene” – I don’t have good enough words for it. But you can read about it – this is no new information.
All that is to say – never lose hope when the case seems hopeless. All things are possible with God, we just have to have faith, and hope, and love, and carry “our” paralytics to God, begging for His Mercy. Even if at the end the choice still belongs to the person in question, without our help, those paralyzed people won’t walk. We just need to carry them to Jesus and hope for the best.
I have recently thought I have nothing to write about, because my mind is so full of the news and hence, worldly things. Immediately I was inspired to write about what actually has troubled me the most in the last two or three months: the blatant lies and manipulation, hypocrisy and virtue signaling in the mainstream media, social media, and politics, all-permeating to the general public. It was, and to a degree still is, quite frankly, depressing.
Moral relativism is ubiquitous – so many, even seemingly intelligent people – claim that there are many “truths” and they are entitled to have it, believe it, and defend it. Well, let’s go back to definitions, shall we? It is increasingly problematic nowadays. What those people actually mean, is that they can have different opinions – and there I can agree, obviously. There can be as many opinions as people in a given area, but how can there be more than one truth? From a logical, and philosophical perspective – the truth is an agreement with facts. Something is or isn’t objectively black or white. We may, however, be color-blind, or prejudiced.
From the Catholic perspective, something is right or wrong. For instance, abortion is murder. Calling it different names does not change its nature. Will a rose start smelling differently when you call it a daisy? Opinions on it vary radically – those who refuse to call it accordingly to its nature, talk instead of some women’s fundamental rights as if it was ever morally ok to kill innocent, helpless human beings (as logic and science tell us, even independently of religion). Does calling it different names change the fact that these human babies die in the process? Of course not.
The same applies to everything else, also in the wide corrupted world of politics, that looks more and more Machiavellian to me. Moreover, the voice of dissent is being systematically silenced by big corporations and politicians, and unfortunately, naïve people comply, because they are misinformed and misguided (assuming the mildest possible explanation for their complicity).
For thousands of years (that is including the Old Testament stories) people were persecuted or died for the Truth, for their God. And all truth will be revealed one day – if not here, then on the Judgement Day. Believing strongly in this helps me, and maybe can help you, get through these difficult times. Paraphrasing Jesus – yes is yes, no is no, the rest comes from the devil. Sin is sin, freedom is not slavery (Orwell’s 1984), and there is one Truth, but very many lies. It may be hard to navigate, and quite impossible to do so without the Holy Spirit. Reading the Bible, receiving the sacraments (if they haven’t closed your church), and praying. Don’t ever give in the to father of lies – that’s all he does. And you then become blind and enslaved. Only God, only the Truth, can set you free.
Trying to stay away from all that confusion and chaos of what is happening in America – not easy – I make myself remember that God is in control. I never doubt it, ever, but I tend to forget. Unfortunately. It applies to what happens in our country, or in Europe, globally, or just within our families. Feeling depressed about the situation comes easy, but it’s important to remember the key idea: Jesus has already conquered the world and the forces of evil. Now they are howling and destroying whatever they can destroy in retaliation – because they had already lost.
However, we’re human. Not many of us are saints. I know I’m not. I’m weak, and even moody sometimes – saints are not moody, nor particularly worried about the state of the world. Actually, as one of the holy people once said (I can’t remember where I read it, and I need to paraphrase) – “knowing our evil propensities, I’m surprised it is not worse.”
Life can be hard – people are persecuted, killed, some commit suicide, we lose family members, physically, or due to fundamental conflicts; unborn babies are slaughtered in a massive, global, vastly approved by the mainstream media genocide – and it is all called progress. The degeneration is more and more visible, and on so many different levels and in so many areas… Have you read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand? She got only one thing horribly wrong and twisted: Christianity. But all the rest is like another version of Orwell’s 1984 – only more realistic. Both of the stories are depicting some phases of our reality now and it’s an ugly picture.
How to react? With prayer and more prayer. God’s the only refuge, the only answer – the harder it becomes, the more necessary God becomes to stay sane and reasonably peaceful. Saints can actually be at peace almost constantly. We can’t perhaps change the reality. We can’t fight the enemies of the Church and humanity by ourselves. But in God we trust. He can do whatever He wills, and His will would always prevail. Let’s never lose hope, let’s stick to the truth, not matter how dangerous it may seem nowadays – because the truth will set us free and we will see the Light.
It is always amazing to me how everything the Church has taught since the very beginning finds some sort of equivalent in the atheistic world. The same people who like to say that Church is wrong about almost everything later start doing them, or believing in them: they just call it different names or practice it for different reasons.
Firstly, I’d like to mention the newly discovered ability of the human body of self-cleaning and self-eating called autophagy (Nobel prize in 2016). What it basically says is that… fasting is good for you. Indeed, the benefits are absolutely amazing. However, almost immediately you notice the crucial difference between the two: the fasting done exclusively for health reasons, though truly commendable in itself, is devoid of the spiritual element. In the eyes of many, it’s just makes our Catholic fasting so much more desirable. Indeed, but the purity of intentions remains crucial. And yes, we can separate the two, or we can combine them as well, and it seems so against the worldly consumerism in both cases anyway, which is good; but it’s striking that we, Christians, have practiced that for much longer, and such a great part of the world would think us crazy. At the same time, the non-believers would expect anyone who fasts to be starving. [Actually, some dieticians are still concerned, even against the evidence]. Now, however, it’s (understandably) the greatest invention since… Well… You get my meaning…
The second example I’d like to make is related to ecology. I’ll be very brief here: it’s been one of the most popular panic inducing topics: the world’s going to end, let’s protect the environment etc. I’m not joking – people panic, children in Great Britain have nightmare about it… But Already St. Francis of Assisi would call the Sun and the Moon or water – our brothers and sisters… I’m pretty sure, that God, allowing us to command the natural world didn’t imply we were meant to destroy it, but rather to protect it, preserve it and use it wisely. It’s been now distorted to such a degree, that setting aside the actual abuses of the natural environment, people tend to glorify nature (animals included) while despising humanity! Hence we have great protectors of animal rights who simultaneously advocate for abortion… It’s worse than in the first case – because there are benefits to more careful usage of the planet’s resources, it’s easy to see on a small scale everyday – just clean the grounds around you of all the rubbish… But to neglect human babies, to consider them beings without dignity (or sometimes some parasitic tissue) while shouting for animal rights… that’s just devilish.
Last but not least, let’s analyze another new fad: minimalism. It’s where the title of the article comes from, so I need to explain a bit. Our Lord told us explicitly in the Gospels that firstly, we should not gather treasure in this world, but in the next one. Jesus said too that we should not attach ourselves to any earthly things, particularly possessions, and “blessed are the poor in spirit” – those that are not attached to them. Lastly, we are to remember that we can’t serve to masters. There’s one God and money is not god – or rather, it is – to some people – but that’s a god that makes people into slaves.
Thus, minimalism is about limiting yourself to as few possessions as possible. Wonderful, isn’t it? Basically it’s against the constantly propagandized consumerism. You just can’t disagree with it as a Catholic, can you? Well, I see the same problem here as I saw above. It’s often emptied of the spiritual content. There are benefits, yes, and they come about even more wonderfully if you practice minimalism in the spirit of detachment for Christ. We do not need so many things as we usually buy or have. And, more importantly, it’s true, that our happiness does not depend on the amounts of things cluttering our flats and our houses. I’ve heard that it’s easier to focus, to clean, to organize (in some cases there’s just not enough to organize at all) and to relax. All that is not surprising. God meant all that He advised to be good to us on all levels, not having exclusively our afterlife on His mind, even though that takes primacy. God is our Father. Good fathers want to see their children healthy and happy. We are happier when eating healthy and moderately, fasting sometimes, and we are healthier and happier in a pure environment, as well as when we do not focus so much on the worldly goods and when we realize that money can’t buy us happiness and peace, or even health for that matter – in grave situations. All the commandments and evangelical counsels will make you happy – here as well.
Yet, what if you are a minimalist and you have ten times fewer things than before but you are very attached to them?… What if it becomes your philosophy of life, but there’s no God to turn to, when a disaster hits? After all, neither minimalism nor consumerism will help you deal with death of the loved ones, sickness, depression, neither will explain the depths of the spiritual world. What difference does it make that your house is empty and clean beyond belief, if your heart and mind is empty too? Or, worse perhaps – if it’s cluttered as much as the houses of the hoarders…?
In truth, I begin to see, that as getting rid of unnecessary things, and not buying them is laudable, you gain nothing if you do not possess the virtue of simplicity. I’ll explain it… simply. It’s putting God always first in everything you say, think, or do. You make God a priority to such an extent, that you start relating everything to God. You see the world with spiritual lenses. It’s not just things, but all that’s not-God that is useless, or at least little appealing, to somebody whose virtue of simplicity is great. For instance – what’s the use of watching silly, absorbing movies or series, playing mindless computer games, both frequently promoting anti-Christian values, for hours on end, scrolling through social media or even news portals etc. when it doesn’t in any way whatsoever bring you closer to God? More often than not – it makes you forget about Him.
One might say I’m too radical. To many people – yes. But I wanted to focus on the virtue of simplicity, and that is simply how it looks. I do not see it in a negative way at all. I admire it in the saints, and I try to practice that myself, as well. Naturally, I make mistakes, I fall, and I’m not perfect, but I always keep working on that. I got rid of many habits that I only rationalized to be relaxing, as God cannot be against relaxation as such – it’s healthy to be relaxed; the peace of mind that Jesus gives, is precisely the best kind of state of relaxation there is. And the heart and the soul really rest only in God. But it’s only the true Christian minimalism – the poverty of the spirit – that will give you peace.
Secular minimalist will tell you too, as I’ve mentioned in passing, that it’s liberating, more relaxing, it helps to focus. Well, exactly the same, but so much more importantly happens, when you declutter your mind and heart. Once you focus your mind and heart on God, when (which is hard work at first, but God will help you on, seeing the efforts that please Him) you try to not read or watch or in any other way waste your time on things that have nothing to do with God – you gain better and better focus on God, it’s immensely satisfying, it gives such a peace of mind and heart – the one “that transcends all understanding” – that you’ll see: nothing even compares to that. Fewer distractions during prayer, more constant presence of God in your thoughts during the day, and so much easier growing in holiness. Always with the falls, but you get up faster and run faster towards Him – He should be the minimum and the all of your soul. That’s the virtue of simplicity.
I don’t remember who noticed that first, but someone counted that God says “do not be afraid” or “fear not” about 365 times in the Scriptures. Once for every day of the year. I have a strong feeling that this needs to be now repeated over and over again…
First of all, we have (or not) the pandemic situation. No matter which side of the argument you are on – many people are truly afraid. Some of the virus and sickness, potentially death, some of other people who are not wearing masks, some are afraid of wearing masks due to asthma or other breathing problems as it causes oxidation stress plus makes it easier to for bacteria to grow in the lungs. Tough situation.
Then there are those who are afraid of losing their jobs, or they have lost it already, and the tomorrow scares them (plus the vision of getting into more debts). Some are afraid of the government and new restrictions. Or more in general – of authorities, in whatever context.
Many people nowadays seem to be scared of the climate change. Some actually live in really dangerous areas – threatened by natural disasters more than other people are. On the other spectrum, people are more afraid of “green” activists and their ideas (some of them include depopulation after all, at least according to some…). There’s here, and everywhere a lot of confusion.
More importantly perhaps, I see people being scared of what happens in the Church. They focus on the changes that have happened, or are happening. Some focus on “what the Pope has said”. And yes, not in a homily, but more unofficially – and the confusion is always terribly magnified by the presence of the mass media. The confusion and the fear are globalized and amplified a million times.
The two above sometimes lead people to apocalyptic thinking, and induces panic. For some people the world ends, for others the Church is falling or they seem to be losing faith.
Add to that daily troubles, multiple, countless problems we face as humanity, depending on the part of the globe, our state or vocation, our relationships, our health and so on. Most people on this planet are afraid of something.
Jesus said, many times, “do not be afraid!” He’s with us always. God is in control. He either wills something or permits it. Either way, of all the mess we humans make, He always creates some good. God looks at things differently from us, so it’s truly difficult for most people, particularly if they lack faith: why should we be at peace, when so much evil is around? But has worrying ever helped anyone in anything? I seriously doubt it.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)
Saint Father Pio put it very succinctly: “Pray, hope and don’t worry; worry is useless”. And it is. It will do nothing but make you feel worse, it may make you sick. But what is worse, if you open yourself to constant anxiety and fear, the devil will use it to harm you. The reason is very simple – the more anxiety and fear there is, the more you lean towards despair… Not to mention – isn’t it opposite of trust?
Saint Faustina, and sister Consolata – two apostles of God’s mercy, would often say themselves or repeat Jesus’ words that we have to put all our trust in Him, and just stop worrying. He takes care of us constantly.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6: 24-26)
Father Dolindo’s famous prayer “Jesus, please take care of it” – that is totally based on trust and the belief that God is good, all the time. He loves as all, each and every one, no exception. God is infinite goodness, but can you really believe it? Can you trust Him with all your life, possessions and everything? You’re either anxious, worried and stressed and put your faith and trust in yourself or some other people – sometimes the government – OR you put all your trust in God. And He will take care of everything to your greatest benefits. The first and truly wonderful benefit comes early – the amazing peace of mind, the feeling of being spiritually and mentally, and emotionally on vacations. It’s liberating!
Therefore, start right now, put all your trust in God, do all your best to cooperate with graces given to you, and be at peace. Enjoy the journey to Heaven.
How well do you think you know yourself? Most people will answer they know themselves very well, even perfectly well. Yet in truth, most of the time the life surprises us into decisions and emotions we’d never think we’d be capable of. If you had told me 20 years ago, I’d be a Catholic on fire for Jesus, I’d have thought: you don’t know me at all.
Let’s look at that from another angle – let’s say you have a spouse of at least 5 years, one or two best friends of 10 to 20 years, parents and colleagues from work. Which of those people knows you best? And think too, that they all know you from a little bit different perspective. Not to mention tens or hundreds of “just friends”, acquaintances, that only barely know your face, but do know bits and pieces about your political or religious views, your hobbies or inclinations. And so they categorize you one way or another. Sounds familiar? Everybody, or almost everybody does it. How many, then images of you (as in mental pictures) are there in the world? And which one is correct?
But there is somebody who really knows you – God Almighty, in three Divine Persons. God knows us in such a way, as we can never know ourselves, until we are united with Him in Heaven. He knows not only all our doings, our life in the womb, all our dreams and nightmares that we have long forgotten, all the spiritual battles that we unwittingly had with the forces of evil. God also knows all our secrets, that atheists would think nobody knows but them. God knows our past, but also our future, all our choices, though we are free to make all of them. And the most important part of it all -He knows the depths of our heart and soul, in a way only the Creator knows – all the ulterior motives, all our hidden and unconscious thoughts that propel us to do things as well as all our desires, fears and weaknesses. All those secret faults and errors that nobody is free of.
Thus, there is one true idea of who you really are – and it rests with God. Also, if you want to “be yourself” as the popular slogan goes – to your fullest potential – then it’s only possible on God’s terms. Perfection means holiness, the opposite direction leads to the distortion of who you really are and are meant to be.
There is another side of “the coin” here: how many images of God are there in the world? If you talked to many atheists, agnostics, or Protestants, but even Catholics, you’d think there are as many “Gods” as there are people… I might be exaggerating, naturally. Let’s see then. There are many atheists who totally miss the most important attributes of God, and focus on the “limitations of freedom imposed by the Church”. For them God is just a punishing and severe judge, and they like to give examples from the Old Testament to illustrate the point. Some just pick and choose some qualities – also from the OT, just to have the excuse to reject the whole idea of God as ridiculous – they never read the New Testament.
There are then atheists and agnostics who make God in their own image, and think Him to be extremely limited this way, because it just doesn’t scale to their mind that God might be infinite. It’s a hard concept, come to think of it. And they don’t grasp the idea that “God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts.”
Then there are people who’d think of Jesus like the Pharisees and some other of His contemporaries – weak and perhaps mad – like talking about being eaten (John 6), with no army, no money etc. Unfortunately, for some people that’s a reason to despise someone.
Or perhaps you’d have somebody think Him a great moral teacher doing some (magic?) tricks (and some would, some wouldn’t believe in them nowadays) but definitely just a human, because, come on! God doesn’t exist! Or like C.S. Lewis would wonderfully summarize the whole thing: either a lunatic, a liar, or God. There’s no other option. And if you’d accept He was a great Rabbi – then how can you NOT accept His divinity if that’s what He Himself claimed?
There was a lot of confusion then, and later, and there is still to this day. Think now of Protestant denominations – for them for instance, God – Jesus – didn’t speak literally in John chapter 6, or when he made Peter the head of the Church, or when He said the Apostles would have the power to bind and to lose, or forgive sins. And there are different interpretations among them what baptism really means, or whether there is such a thing as predestination. And even though Jesus very clearly said that there should be no divorce – some accept divorces – after the fashion of the world. What kind of images of God do they have then? Does God change His mind or His nature from time to time?
We do know He doesn’t. And Saint Paul said, that Christ isn’t divided. Just as the Holy Spirit isn’t confused – whispering conflicting doctrines to different denominations… The divisions come not from God, who wants us all united. God is the uniting spirit, devil – the dividing one. And the same now happens to the Catholic Church, or it’s been always happening, only now is so glaringly visible because of the nature of the media and globalization. Any local news can become instantly global.
In our own yard – when a so called progressive, or liberal, Catholic says that God is merciful and it’s the Church that is wrong about homosexuals or divorces, I want to ask – do you mean God changed His mind? On the other hand, when a so called radical traditionalist says, that only the Latin Mass will save us all, and the Church in particular, I want to ask – do you mean God is no longer our Savior, He left us over 50 years ago, or perhaps the Holy Spirit stopped guiding the Church, though that was promised us from the start? I’m not going to go into debates with imaginary opponents here – there might be some part of Truth everywhere – and only God knows the minds and hearts of us all and why we believe certain things, or why we say them. Is love there truly involved? Or rather some egoism, self-love and pride… since it’s common trait of practically everyone in varying degrees.
The points is – who’s got it right: who has the right idea about God, and His plans etc. My answer is identical like in the first part of the article. Only God knows Himself, and He said so! Jesus said clearly, that only the Son knows and has seen the Father. All we can know about God, is from knowing Jesus, as He revealed Himself to us. And that is how we get to know God. But many people mentioned above read the Bible, the Gospels even. Sometimes they know long passages by heart, and yet, they differ – why is that? Only the Spirit transcends the depths of God Himself (1 Corinthians 2:10) – the little we do know, even if it seems to be much (all the details from the Gospels, all that the mystics revealed to us) – is almost nothing compared to the immensity and infinity of God.
Most of us, even unwittingly, make God in their own image. Muslims think of God as a Master, harsh and unforgiving, Jews have a concept closer to Christianity, but without… Christ. Protestants miss the Eucharist (not only, but that’s the greatest hole in their Christianity), and we Catholics often forget either of mercy, or of justice. Many people are truly ignorant of their own religion, many are so tepid, they think of God as some safety precaution, and go to Mass just in case… Some think God (or they’d say the Church) too severe or old-fashioned, some – too modern, too lenient. And so many of people are just plain confused…
So once again – how do we get to really know God? There’s one truly good answer: by loving Him. God is LOVE, thus if you want to understand God, follow/imitate Jesus – strive to become like Jesus, to become His image in this world. Become the flame of love. Feel the love grow and change you, let the Holy Spirit make you into the image of Jesus so that you can think like Him, look at others lovingly and mercifully as He did and does, and finally – understand God the Father as Jesus did and does – to the limited ends of our human capacity while here on Earth. Once, when we’re in Heaven, we’ll truly be able to see – face to face. Now, it’s only by love, by growing in holiness that we can know God. Not by reading only, not even meditating only, if it doesn’t bear the fruit of love. Because, even if you spoke like Angels… performed miracles greater than Jesus Himself – and lacked in charity, in love – then you know NOT who God IS. Only love recognizes love. Only love unites souls with each other – and with their Maker. Let God Who Is Love show you the Truth: The Father created you out of love for YOU, Jesus died of love for YOU, and the Holy Spirit is the LOVE between The Father and the Son so strong, that it became the third person to guide YOU through the Son to the Father. Let’s not make Him sad, let’s respond to LOVE with love.
Thank God that there are solid folk
Who water flowers and roll the lawn,
And sit and sew and talk and smoke,
And snore all through the summer dawn.
Who pass untroubled nights and days
Full-fed and sleepily content,
Rejoicing in each other’s praise,
Respectable and innocent.
Who feel the things that all men feel,
And think in well-worn grooves of thought,
Whose honest spirits never reel
Before man’s mystery, overwrought.
O happy people! I have seen
No verse yet written in your praise,
And, truth to tell, the time has been
I would have scorned your easy ways.
Then I do envy solid folk
Who sit of evenings by the fire,
After their work and doze and smoke,
And are not fretted by desire.
From Spirits in Bondage
Saint John the Silent was born in Nicopolis, Armenia on January 8, 454. His parents (a prominent Armenian family) were good Catholics and ensured he received a good Christian education. After his parents’ death and with his inheritance, he built a church dedicated to the Blessed Mother and the monastery, as well.
With ten other friends he intended to shut himself up in the monastery for life, believing in shunning the dangers of the world, through avoiding sinning by the tongue among other things; he wanted to practice a life of silence and already then spoke quite rarely. His main goal was the salvation of his soul through self-denial, mortification and prayer.
Then at the age of 28, much to his chagrin, and over his protests, John was made bishop of Colonia in Armenia. He felt unworthy and preferred much to remain a monk, but was obedient and went to perform his duties diligently. However, as much as was possible he tried to live as if he was still in the monastery.
Once, in prayer, he had a vision of a bright cross in mid-air and he heard a voice telling him to follow the light, which led him to the monastery of St. Sabas (the Lavre) in Palestine. John discerned that it was God’s answering his fervent prayers to lead a monastic life and so he quit the episcopal charge. There were 150 monks living there and John definitely felt at home.
He was 38 when he joined the Lavre, and as a novice he was performing many hard chores, but he was always joyful about it, and quite silent. In 494 he was estimated to be naturally fit for a monastic and solitary life and was granted the privilege of a life of a hermit. For John that was wonderful news and a perfect change as he had now all the time in the world to pray and mortify his flesh for five days a week, only joining the monks and other hermits for the weekends.
John spend three years in his hermitage continuing his meditations and growing spiritually. St Sabas decided that St. John was worthy of becoming a priest, but it turned out that John had been ordained a bishop, but abdicated from his position which meant that couldn’t be ordained. Thinking that he disappointed St. Sabas greatly, John insisted on leaving the Lavre, but St. Sabas urged him to stay. And for the next four years John would live alone in his cell, even more reticent than before. And thus he became known as John the Silent.
In 503, St. Sabas was driven out of the Lavre, and John left the monastery too, out of respect for him. He went into the wilderness where he stayed for several years conversing only with God. Seven years in uninterrupted silence did he spend, after which time he was sought out by the abbot and asked to return. He did so, but as he was used to total silence, he confined himself to his cell and spent the rest of his life in solitude and silence. He died at the age of 104.
“Father, you called St. John to the solitary life in which he prayed for others. Grant us the signs we seek for discerning Your will and purify our hearts, dear Lord, that we may serve You more perfectly. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.”
Yesterday (30th of September) we had a reading from the Gospel of Matthew 16 about taking one’s own cross, following Jesus and denying oneself. The subject in itself is worth discussing and meditating on all the time. But a thought came to my mind, perhaps (and hopefully) put there by the Holy Spirit, that there is a cross that Jesus carried that almost nobody talks about: His daily life and struggles (I mean in a sense of calling it a cross, too).
It is absolutely important and beneficial to the soul to focus on the Cross – from Gethsemane to the Calvary. It’s a book of profound love – the deepest love, mercy, sacrifice and self-denial you can think of. But there is also a hidden life of thirty years with Joseph and Mary, which was I’m sure characterized by fasting, incessant prayer, hard work and poverty. Although I’m also certain that it was a very happy life, even if difficult. But from the beginning of Jesus’s public life, there was a heavy cross to bear – or many of them.
First of all, He needed to depart from His mother, that was the most perfect creature God ever made, and He delighted in her immensely. It gave Him joy and relief from the pains of humanity to just be with her silently. I remember that Jesus once said to Saint Theresa of Avilla something similar (and some other mystics as well, but I can’t remember the names of the others now) – that she is His rest, because there’s no worldly noise inside of her, but purity and simplicity, and a heart all for God. And wasn’t Mary the most perfect sanctuary for Jesus as well? I’m convinced that it was so. To some extent, all holy people are that.
Secondly, His beloved disciples were just weak humans, as we all are – and though they were all greatly loved (as we are) and Jesus was patience incarnate, He seemed exasperated* at times. I mean all those times in particular when they didn’t understand Him or when they lacked faith (and so He called them men of little faith or of little understanding).
Thirdly, there were enemies: mostly the Pharisees and Sadducees who evidently hated Him and plotted His demise. They tried to trap Him, to ruin His reputation, and to turn people away from Him. And yet, He preached to them. At first He talked to them like to everyone else, later with much stronger language. We all know how it all turned out. That must have been very hard for Jesus.
And last but not least, Judas. The constant thorn in Jesus’s sweet, humble and meek hart that would make Him bleed internally, emotionally, spiritually. The fight must have been terrible, the Lord’s patience unimaginable, the knowledge of the future – for any human – depressing. Jesus was not less human than we are – He was simply a perfect human. But as God, His capacity for love was/is so much greater, it’s infinite. He showed us this in His Passion – but He showed by the very Incarnation, taking upon Himself all of humanities troubles and sickness, and eventually all our sins – the little ones and the unspeakable ones. Thus, it easy to conclude – that constant company of Judas was a cross hard to bear. But Jesus always fulfilled the Will of the Father – in all things – so He didn’t send Him away.
There are also “little” things, like hunger, thirst, dizziness, perhaps sickness (we do not know of any, though), being too cold, or too hot, exhausted by the public ministry and dealing so very often with people with either little or no faith, or little gratitude. Walking, walking, all the time in a hurry, but not too fast, just to get to as many souls as possible, to teach as many as possible – to gather all His sheep. And at night praying, probably for most of it. Short rests taken when absolutely necessary, to gather strength to go on and continue the Work of Salvation – it was a life of constant self-denial.
Let’s remember how hard it was for Jesus even before the Gethsemane, by reading the Gospels often, or meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary – which after all are just like the Bible on the beads: first we meditate on the early life of Jesus, then His public life, then His Passion and lastly on His Glorious Victory. I love doing both – they are intertwined for me. They both make my heart and mind full of Jesus if can avoid distractions – and that’s precious. Also, it is easier to follow Jesus when we meditate upon all of His life and its details. And isn’t that what we are all supposed to do?
* Our Lord Jesus Christ experience human emotions such as joy (discovering somebody’s great faith), sadness (Lazarus grave), anger (like against the traders in the Temple), and irritation – the one emotion I talked about concerning his disciples and Apostles. Emotions and feelings are simply human, they are not immoral or wrong in themselves.
For the first time ever, as far as I can tell, I’m writing an article to fit the picture, and not the other way around. The photo you can see here was taken during a Rzeszow Pilgrimage on foot to Jasna Góra, and the priest on the photo is one of the priest-guides of the group. Because of the pandemic, this year only the priests representing the pilgrims walked the way. And so the pilgrims were “spiritual” – walking the way in spirit. When I saw the picture from the pilgrimage report, I was captivated. It kind of expresses the thought of priesthood. Many such thoughts are written down in numerous works, for instance those written by the saints. But this thought is written differently, because it is “written” in picture form. The priest carrying the cross and the rosary. He is also moving, and not sitting down or standing still.
Perhaps my thoughts are bordering on overinterpretation of the picture, but is that not what the priests do for us? They proclaim the crucified, the greatest Love of the world. They proclaim the Cross, of which Saint Paul said that is foolishness and scandal for the world, but it is the sign of salvation for us. They pray for us and teach us prayer. They represent Jesus Christ during the Transubstantiation. They give us God in the Eucharist. And last but not least, they are moving all the time, going and leading us heavenward. They show us how to reach God. Christ – the cross, prayer, the way.
The priests give us a lot, and so we cannot forget about them in our prayers. It’s been six years since I first adopted a priest. Time goes by really quickly. I like praying for the priests, because that is the greatest gift we can offer them. Close to the hearts of Jesus and Mary they are safe. We remember about anniversaries and name days of our priests – and that is nice. But the prayer, though invisible, has great power. We sometimes complain about the priest, but how much more efficient is the prayer!
Adoption requires remembrance, and is a sort of self-denial as it means giving our time to God when interceding on a behalf of a concrete priest and asking for spiritual graces the he needs. Priests fight for our holiness, performing sacraments, giving us God, talking to us, helping us… Let’s then also fight for their holiness through everyday prayer in their intention.
Author: Magdalena Maraj
Translated by: Anna Garbaczewska