What is the purpose of sighs, grumbles, and complaints? Jesus tells us that worrying is a vain endeavor, as worry will not buy us any time. Similarly, complaining does not fix anything. That’s why St. Francis de Sales makes the simple instruction to turn our complaints into prayers.
Join our chatters in a deep discussion about the importance of prayer, not just in bringing our noisy complaints to God, but also in coming in silence before God to hear His subtle and tender voice.
This chat was spurred by a letter that St. Francis wrote to a woman who was suffering from very poor health. His gentle pastoral side shines through in this letter as he instructs her to accommodate her prayer schedule to what is suitable, given the strains of her struggle.
You won’t want to miss the counsel from this true pastor and how it has rippled into hearts and minds of our chatters over 500 years later. Allow yourself to be blessed by this conversation.
If you like the chat below, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday! We read a passage of St. Francis de Sales and then gather great insights and sharing!
Bring Your Complaints to God
Question: Discuss this line: “it costs no more to sigh in God and to God and for God than to sigh and complain without making good use of it.”
Bethany: Our preacher Mr. Xiao Ping Su is teaching us how to pray to the Holy Spirit in the right way.
Caroline: I find it is better to complain in prayer rather than just complain. I leave those complaints with Him so He can sort them out.
Visitation Sister: The Holy Spirit can help us tonight. Heart-to-heart talks with God can be about anything in our heart, complaints included.
Caroline: I give things to Him, and He keeps them and handles them.
Visitation Sister: He takes all in our hearts and helps us with each sentiment, and we do not have to fear that we are honest with Him, even if it is a complaint. If we’re going to take the energy for something, why not do so as a prayer?
Caroline: And if I don’t understand how I feel, He helps me sort it out.
Rebecca: Sometimes it feels like he throws the ball of issues back in my court, or maybe I unwittingly take it back.
Patricia: Great reading this week.
Visitation Sister: Yes, very relevant reading. I think positive energy, so to speak, is from the Holy Spirit who speaks from within us. Why do you think God sends it back, Rebecca?
Caroline: LOL, Rebecca. I often ask Him since He is the Undoer of Knots, why does the ball keep getting bigger.
Rebecca: I’m not sure, Sister. Maybe because of a lot of the problems. There are practical, material issues, or because he has no hands and feet except those of the people who accept Him and let his Spirit guide them, and there are not enough of those around, or I fail to make my needs known to enough of them or clearly enough, or in this society everyone is too busy or overwhelmed.
Be Still and Know He Is God
Question: Do you find it difficult to be still in times of prayer? What advice can you share for learning to be still and quiet?
Caroline: Yes, I can find it hard to be still. I try to quiet myself with something else first, to make a break from the day.
Bethany: When you are meditating, you have to keep your mind focused.
Patricia: Practicing the Jesus Prayer for many years. It makes background music in my heart. Can also restore my stillness.
Caroline: That is a great prayer!
Visitation Sister: Did you read the Way of the Pilgrim to learn the Jesus Prayer or learn some other way?
Patricia: It was that book indeed. Right now, I’m reading First Initiation into Carthusian Life.
Visitation Sister: Carthusians are very silent and almost like hermits. Have you been to a Carthusian Monastery? I am not even sure where they are.
Caroline: Go to the Carthusians Monks and Nuns.
Visitation Sister: Thanks for link!
Patricia: Good link.
Bethany: Listening to hymns and reading the Bible can help guide us in prayer.
Caroline: Yes, worship music is always good to use.
Bethany: Because worship music is a concert of prayer, it can guide people to Jesus. I have some music CDs like Jeremy Camp and Matthew West, those are the people who sing Jesus Prayer worship songs. I did join the Matthew West concert in the Pointing the Right Way Christian church in Kansas City.
Caroline: I like them too, Bethany. Have you heard of Casting Crowns?
Visitation Sister: I do not find it hard to be still EXCEPT when I am agitated. Then it takes a long time to settle down.
Patricia: The more time I spend in prayer, the easier it is to be still.
Sharing Prayer Advice
Question: What advice can you share for learning to be still and quiet?
Rebecca: For me it is to just be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. That helps a lot. But it is hard or impossible to get there often these days, in a rural area, with my vehicle not running. And spending hours telephoning trying to get a ride to church, even for Sunday Mass. Hours.
Caroline: That's rough, Rebecca.
Patricia: Even your trying can be a prayer, I think. What I love about the Visitandines is the tender gentleness of the approach.
Rebecca: That is true, Patty. He knows I want to be with him. Last week I drove 60 miles to get to Mass a half hour early only to find a sign on a locked door saying that Mass was canceled.
Visitation Sister: Yes, Visitandine's charism which we try to live by is gentleness and humility.
Maria: The Lord knows our heart & intentions, so we should go easy on ourselves.
Rebecca: Yes, and I was blessed by at least facing the altar in the locked church, having a Wi-Fi signal and this iPad, and being able to sign in on a Mass celebrated by my former Pastor some 50 miles from there. And my old truck had not yet broken down since I have a new battery in it. After Mass I bought a little food for a picnic, went exploring the area and found a municipal beach and went for a swim. Overall, a pleasant, relaxing day. Also, there were a lot of other people who were surprised by the locked doors, including some more handicapped than I am, so I was able to go see what the sign said for all of us and also chat with them.
Caroline: Prayer is how we remain in touch with Jesus.
The Counsel of a True Pastor
Question: Did you expect St. Francis to tell this woman to rise up above the pain and stick to her prayer schedule? Discuss his character as a pastor that instead he gave the counsel that he did.
Patricia: I did expect a rigorous direction to stick to her schedule. The pastoral response was kind and gentle.
Visitation Sister: I think we should take this counsel to heart whenever we suffer pain.
Patricia: A good reminder, Sister. Thanks!
Visitation Sister: St Francis was an incredibly wise and sensitive pastor, down to earth and spiritual, practical, and understanding. He was person-oriented and worked with the individuality of each soul.
Maria: I believe short ejaculations or sighs to God is a form of prayer, God knows our heart intentions at that time of suffering…just saying “Jesus help me” is a brief conversation with the Lord. And our suffering becomes redemptive in a way that we accept as the Father’s will at that time.
Patricia: How I pray for such a spiritual father. I am without a director at the moment.
Visitation Sister: We will join you in prayer for that, Patricia.
Bethany: Sr. Susan, did you guide retreats before?
Visitation Sister: No, I do not guide retreats, but I can speak with retreatants.
Bethany: We have some church nuns guide the retreat.
Visitation Sister: Pray to St Francis de Sales to intercede for you too for a director.
Patricia: Thanks so much. I will pray to St. Francis as well.
Maria: When I want time to be totally silent with the Lord to pray & listen, I go to the Adoration chapel in my area & spend a few hours. If He says nothing to me, I just keep Him company.
Visitation Sister: True prayer!
A Prophetic Warning about Social Media?
Question: Take some time to explore this quote from the letter: “you must make a really brave effort and not allow talk and the pointless tyranny of social contacts deprive you of such a rare treasure as that of speaking heart to heart with your God and maker.” Are social contacts a bad thing? What is he saying here?
Caroline: If we are idle in our talk with others, it takes us away from Him.
Patricia: I think he’s referring to the way we can let others eat up our time. Social media is notorious for this. (Love that pointless tyranny phrase.).
Caroline: It’s so appropriate.
Patricia: Social contacts are not bad in themselves, but we can’t allow them a higher priority than God.
Bethany: Caroline, what does that mean if we are idle in our talk with others it takes us away from him?
Caroline: I mean that if we gossip, or say things that hurt others, or talk about evil things, we should not, then we are too far from Him.
Bethany: God tells us to love each other and pray for each other and guide them to know Jesus’ love.
Rebecca: But in some social contacts we can help one another to trust in God’s love and mercy.
Visitation Sister: God is first; love Him and of course then others. We connect with the Lord to help us connect with others.
Rebecca: He makes that abundantly clear in today’s readings. Bishop Barron has an excellent sermon on these readings on YouTube. I like the way he points out little things, like the repetition of Martha’s name suggesting familiarity and tenderness.
Patricia: You are all too young to remember the old “party line” phone, I think. Sister told us in catechism class to always remember that we are on the same party line as Jesus.
Visitation Sister: When I was a child, we had a party line.
Where Is the Lord?
Visitation Sister: Consider the story of the prophet Elijah (I Kings 19:9-13), where he escapes into the wilderness, is led to Mount Horeb, and he discovers that The Lord was not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in the still small voice. Why is this great and majestic God who created the vast cosmos, with powerful supernovas and blackholes, why is he so subtle in how he communicates to us?
Patricia: Scripture says, “no one can see God and live.” The creator of all kindly turns the power down for us. We are still changed by being with him.
Rebecca: Patricia, I do remember party lines. I don‘t worry about Him listening in, I include him in the conversation even if only silently.
Visitation Sister: I think God is subtle because He wants us to be very attentive to Him. Some people have special gifts that God gives them to help them understand what He wants.
Caroline: Yes, and we each have a room in our hearts where only He can go.
Patricia: Good idea. We have to pay close attention to soft voices. I love a gentle God. My childhood was riddled with a just and terrible God. Hard to recover from that.
Caroline: Patty, when we find out Who He really is, everything changes.
Visitation Sister: May His gentle voice guide us all this week!
Visitation Sister: Have a blessed one!
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