What does it mean to obey God? To serve God? At the heart of these questions lies the reality of faith, the reality that all we do (or don’t do) needs to be surrendered to God. We live life on this tension between being and doing, between being Mary and Martha. Ultimately, what matters is how we strike the balance between these two identities. More precisely, it is about a discovery of who God designed each of us to be.
Read this article and face the reality with our chatters that regardless of how we were designed, we need to have hearts that are at peace in God’s will….
Our latest chat installment stems from a letter by St Francis de Sales counseling a woman who is going through a time of spiritual dryness and anxiety. We have all struggled with juggling our priorities. Learn that if we make God our priority, everything else will follow suit.
Praying for Peace
Visitation Sister: Question 1: St. Francis acknowledges that his reader is determined to live for God. However, he notes that, “your great natural activity harasses you with many restless impulses.” How can we calm those restless impulses within ourselves?
Pamela: We can pray and ask the Lord to be with us.
Visitation Sister: Yes. We can be open to His Presence within us and when we realize that maybe we can become more calm.
Pamela: I like the surrender novena and often say “Oh, Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.”
Visitation Sister: The surrender prayer is a good example and a practical way of praying for peace.
Pamela: Yes, it is a tremendous help to me right now.
Visitation Sister: I am trying to think of the name of the priest who wrote a special prayer/novena like that.
Pamela: Fr. Duotolo I think is his name. He was given it by Jesus. I am ok, but some things are up in the air and that is hard. I must stay focused on God, not circumstances.
Visitation Sister: Question 2: Do these impulses decrease with spiritual growth, and with age itself?
Pamela: I think we still get tempted, but I know now more how to handle things.
Visitation Sister: I agree. I was much more emotional when younger, but maybe the temptations are different now.
Pamela: Some of my temptations to worry are the same.
Visitation Sister: I was thinking of St Paul with the thorn in the side, so to speak, that God would not remove, to keep him humble.
Pamela: That is such a good reminder for me right now. Thank you.
Visitation Sister: Question 3: How does this contrast with St. Augustine’s phrase about “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee?”
Pamela: We can ask ourselves: “Where am I restless right now?”
Visitation Sister: Great question! My answer: Trying to know God’s Will for us here.
Denise: Good question Pamela. I think of young mothers, littles ones. How they learn to balance their vocation and become holy. I believe God grants these a certain grace to do this.
Bethany: Sr Susan, when I saw you interview online with Fr. Mitch, it really touched my heart to know we must humble ourselves in the name of the Lord. Our Lord Jesus opens his hands and welcome us, and he tells us: “Come to me, and I will make you have inside peace and joy.” Alleluia.
Visitation Sister: Thank you Bethany. That interview sure has reached many people over the past 9 years.
Pamela: I have been restless about money, but God has promised to supply all our need. Phil. 4:19.
Visitation Sister: St Augustine also spoke for me, except I did not know when young what kept me restless until I found the Lord and began to calm down. St Augustine is quoted often with that phrase because it must apply so much to so many.
Pamela: Many people are restless for one reason or another. There is peace only in God.
Mary or Martha?
Visitation Sister: Question 4: How do we strike the balance between being like Mary and Martha?
Pamela: Hopefully, our actions are rooted in our faith.
Denise: Some of this may be practical time management. Time for work and time for prayer, time of Mary and time of Martha.
Visitation Sister: True. Both Mary and Martha were faith-filled but practiced it differently somewhat.
Pamela: We are all different and some are more contemplative and some of us more active.
Denise: It just came to me within our busy vocation, there God will be.
Visitation Sister: I wanted to be like Mary when I came to the Monastery but in many ways, I am like Martha.
Pamela: I think I am more a Mary.
Denise: Some of the Saints spoke of this: St Teresa Avila, and Brother Lawrence. So perhaps it is not exclusive, or either or.
Pamela: Yes, Brother Lawrence had a big effect on me the first time I read it. It seemed God was in the room. Incredible peace.
Visitation Sister: That is powerful witness to the book Pamela. Like a balance, Denise?
Denise: Yes, a balance. Oh, this is your question… how do we do this? It would take time to learn. First would come the awareness that we can learn to do this.
Visitation Sister: Yes, I guess we need to know our patterns and see if God wants more of us one way or the other and ask His help to grow that way.
Denise: Good point, Sister, that we pray and seek.
Pamela: Yes, God is faithful when we ask.
Being Over Doing
Visitation Sister: Question 5: Why is a preoccupation with doing things and getting things done detrimental to our spiritual life?
Pamela: We may skimp on the time with the Lord, being so anxious to “do.”
Denise: It can be a great distraction to be overly busy.
Visitation Sister: It is detrimental because we are concerned with the temporal to excess and not on the eternal and spiritual, that is what busy-ness does to us. No matter what temporal things may have distracted you you remained with this great spiritual journey. On the flip side, how can doing things and getting things done be beneficial for our spiritual life?
Pamela: When some things are out of the way, the way is open to concentrate on God.
Denise: Perhaps living a life of obedience to your vocation, being self-disciplined, these would be helpful for our spiritual life.
Pamela: Yes, I think so.
Visitation Sister: Ah yes, we are freed up for Him when we accomplish our tasks or list of things to do. They don’t distract us if the tasks are completed. And yes, obedience is a calming virtue as well as one of discipline - good point about obedience.
Pamela: But we must not think that we have to do EVERYTHING.
Visitation Sister: That would be approaching something like compulsion?
Denise: St Therese spoke of everything we do, do it for the Love of God. So, a simple thing could become a spiritual practice.
Visitation Sister: Yes, Denise, that is what makes a saint: Doing all for Love of God.
Denise: Sr Susan, then this is the answer to question 3.
Visitation Sister: Ah, yes, Denise.
Pamela: We must discern what really needs to be done.
Visitation Sister: I wonder if some people are better than others at discernment.
Pamela: Yes, but we can learn as we deepen our relationship. That is hard for me. I do things for me too many times. Need to be reminded that all can be for Him.
Denise: Me too, Pamela.
Visitation Sister: Try a direction of intention in the morning and if you forget later, you at least set a spiritual tone for the day in terms of doing all for God.
Perseverance Gives Character
Visitation Sister: St. Francis used the analogy of the spiritual life contrasting the cherry tree and the palm tree. In relation to times of spiritual dryness, consider and also discuss the fact that when trees face a dry spell, it causes them to move their roots deeper to seek water. What’s so important about gentleness, humility and simplicity? Why should these be at the heart of all we do?
Denise: The Holy Spirit reminds us of everything Jesus said to us.
Pamela: We must be listening, even if busy.
Bethany: Jesus is more important than anything in God we praise alleluia.
Pamela: I have seen from this chat where I have been off today.
Visitation Sister: Spiritual dryness can cause us to spend more time with the Lord hoping to relate more deeply with Him.
Pamela: He calls us to grow then.
Visitation Sister: Even if we do not perceive the growth. And Jesus is meek and humble of Heart, so we strive to be like Him in that.
Bethany: We we need to prepare our hearts to trust in Jesus.
Denise: Yes, Pamela, I am often convicted in chat.
Visitation Sister: I don’t understand the use of this word convicted.
Denise: In here I am able to see things that live in me that cause trouble. I use the word convicted in a positive way.
Visitation Sister: Ah ok!
Home is Where the Church Is
Visitation Sister: Last question: Discuss this line from the letter: “This country is my home according to my natural birth; according to my spiritual birth, my home is the Church. I shall willingly go or stay wherever I can best serve the latter without attaching myself to the former.”
Pamela: He wants to be primarily attached to the church, but he will do as God ask.
Visitation Sister: For me that might mean leaving one Monastery for another if God so called but serving Him and praying wherever that might be.
Denise: It is another distraction to become overly attached to memories of where we were born or experiences we’ve had. This is how I read this.
Visitation Sister: Ok yes, it is almost 8:30 and time for me to go as well. I wish all of you a blessed week with much grace!
Pamela: Thank you and God bless.
Denise: Thank you, Sister
Rebecca: Thank you, Sister. Good chat.
If you liked the chat above, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday!