This morning awoke quite early in much pain. Then the pain of the mind, heart and soul inched up, too. However, returned to Scriptures and then praying the Divine Office. Noticed in Office of Readings, St. Cyprian has much to share about renouncing the world!
Then a friend sent an email with a homily on the same topic, with some quotes from Theresa of Jesus (St. Theresa of Avila).
In a phone conversation the day before Thanksgiving, this nothing Catholic hermit mentioned to an older priest, some of what St. John Climacus writes. The priest responded that it sounded "too hard."
Since then, have reflected upon what others of our time have written, suggesting that we need a softer church, or that some theology is passe, or that we don't need to take the spiritual life so seriously, or be likable and relatable, removed from controversy, just get along, no matter.
But then Fr. V. writes from Africa, expressing quite soundly, that by this stage in the nothing Catholic hermit's spiritual journey, it ought to well know that the world holds nothing good for it. He wrote more, and some reminding this hermit to let go of those who have hurt or caused problems relative to the temporal world. Plus, to not ignore nor diminish the constant efforts of the devil trying to disrupt the hermit in any way possible. Fr. V. added that perhaps this taking lightly the force and trickery of the devil may be the American culture in not understanding, but to learn to--at every turn-- rebuke the devil and say, "Get behind me, Satan!"
Anyway, who does one believe, and what does one believe, regarding spiritual guidance, teaching, and paths? Can these saints, who left writings for us, be out-dated in their content, guidance, and life examples? Do people's souls and the trials of their souls somehow change over the centuries? Do the tenets of the spiritual climb up the holy mountain need to change, also? Does the devil change? Does the narrow path, the narrow gate, of which Jesus speaks, no longer need be narrow--or not that narrow, now, in our enlightened century?
Do we quibble with Teresa of Avila or John Climacus, or John of the Cross or Therese of Lisieux and discount the seeming hardness of their advice and their paths by which they successfully came to sanctification--including much suffering and also much self-discipline? Was St. Therese of Lisieux rather warped when she wrote of offering herself as a holocaust, as a victim soul of love, to Jesus, vowing to suffer all in helping Jesus save souls? Are we in some new age of greater theological knowledge and understanding, such that we have outgrown what may seem too narrow or too hard?
Or, do we listen to the likes of St. John Climacus who warns to not pay attention to those who try to soften the lessons, who try to say the world's allures are not a snare, who bring up various points in order to try to convince us that we are deluded and deceived by old ways not at all necessary or even advised for today's Christian?
This nothing Catholic hermit considered the same older priest who awhile ago lamented and questioned why priests and bishops in general, today, do not have the powers to heal and to work miracles, that Jesus' first priests, the Apostles, were given. He even said why aren't more Catholics imbued with spiritual gifts, as well?
Perhaps it has to do with that attitude expressed in the recent conversation, regarding the guidance of John Climacus: "sounds too hard."
When we read the very words of Jesus Christ in Scripture, or of the apostles, we do not read that the way is broad and easy. We do not read that we ought embrace the ways of the world, or to soften the Church. St. Paul made his words quite stringent when chastising the laxities already occurring in the early churches. We people just can't seem to take what we are told by God Himself, and at last try to stop thinking on things of this realm and to think on that which is above, of the spiritual realm, of heaven.
We seem to have fallen into many of the snares that John Climacus and others warn against. Even in his advice on despondency, Climacus goes against what we may think so wonderful, in going out and about trying to rescue others, when in fact we are the blind trying to lead the blind.
But that status can change. And it seems to this nothing Catholic hermit, that when it has done what is not advised by these saints of old, even down to some specific aspects, that there are pitfalls and a falling away from the power and strength and love in His Real Presence. When, such as this morning this hermit returns to what is advised, and does not shrink from prayer, and does not doubt or allow itself to be influenced by others who have titles or seem to have much knowledge, the hermit's soul, heart, mind, and body fare far better.
Fr. V. advised in his strong message of staying with the saints and of the Scriptures, and to renounce that which is not helpful. In stating that the world has nothing good nor lasting nor soul-satisfying to offer this soul (or any soul), he includes the temporal church as being caught up, also, in the world. But he adds that there are some worthy Christians who yet stand in contradiction to the world that is reflected in aspects of today's temporal Church.
Let us be of those worthy. Let us not shrink from what "sounds too hard," too harsh, seems old-fashioned or out-dated, or not sophisticated in the temptation of delicious, intricate and tantalizingly intelligent words. Let us read the words in Scripture and heed. Let us consider as a successful guide, some saint of yore whose life lived and words written have helped countless souls over the centuries. Let us believe those who dared not diminish that which was given to them to share with others: encouragements and wisdoms in actually walking through the narrow gate and along the narrow path.
Let us pick up the cross daily of which Jesus speaks and offers us. Let us follow Him, as He asks us to follow in His footsteps. Where does He lead? "Quo vadis?" Jesus asked Peter. Where, again, did Jesus go? By what way?
Well, where are we going and by what way and in what means? Who do we follow? To whom do we listen? Who do we believe of those who have lived and journeyed as Christians, who might help guide us with assurance that we will arrive for the heavenly reward?
Even in seeking a contemporary, a living spiritual guide or father in this life, we must ask questions. We must listen to the comments and make observations. If the narrow path is deemed too hard, then perhaps we need to seek one who embraces more the reality of that which espouses and produces actual and heavenly results?