“Prayer is in fact the recognition of our limits and our dependence: we come from God, we are of God and to God we return.” St. John Paul II
I had a great prayer request answered some time ago. As usual, I asked my Carmelite Sisters how I can give thanks to our Lord. I was told quite frankly, have a mass said and your gratitude will be heard. Another time, we were at a dinner with a seminarian and there were some non-Catholics present. They asked tersely, why priests need to be celibate. The table waited for the answer. He replied in a calm voice, “God has done everything for me, I want to give Him something back.” I thought that was beautiful although I do not think it was directly from the catechism. But it was an answer that drew silence from the table.
“Labour without stopping; do all the good works you can while you still have the time.” St. John of God
I have read about several saints who had chosen a life of celibacy. One example is St. Justina of Padua. She was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian. Another example is Bartolo Longo. After his return to the Catholic Church, he stayed celibate and became a Dominican tertiary. At the behest of the pope at the time, because of so much gossip surrounding his relationship with Countess Mariana di Fusco, the two married though they lived celibate lives. Society today would frown upon or even ridicule this type of life. Hermits in the Church live in a type of isolation. Charles de Foucauld lived in Algeria for many years. This would not have been easy. These people, and many other great saints throughout the history of the Church have dedicated their lives to Christ. It is a beautiful way to sacrifice for God.
“We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds nothing back.” St. Rose Phillippine Duchesne
It is in these small gestures that we sacrifice for God. I understand that we do not need to practice fasting and abstinence every Friday during the year. However, I do try to avoid meat on Fridays in any case. The Carmelite nuns I visit do not eat meat. Small disciplines and small gestures are part of what we can give back to Christ. Despite being a Catholic all my life I still run into roadblocks. They are not easy to overcome. I follow the movement, Communion and Liberation. Reading the texts of Luigi Giussani and the work of others that follow the charism still have much to teach me despite following for years. Sometimes, I am in awe of how much God does for me that I am at a loss as to how to give Him something back.
“The devil strains every nerve to secure the souls which belong to Christ. We should not grudge our toil in wresting them from Satan and giving them back to God.” St. Sebastian
The best advice I received recently from my friends in the Carmelite monastery was when I was feeling a bit confused. I was told to spend more time with our Lord. Silence, prayer, and simplicity are all part of ‘clearing your mind.’ It is important not to reduce these efforts to some new age spirituality that the world pushes. Christ is the only anchor for me. It is easy to get distracted, but we need to stand firm in our faith. We know we are loved but doubt can creep in quickly. This is our task – to double down on our faith.
“I plead with you! Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid!” St. John Paul II