Life is filled with its fair share of challenges, hardships, and toils. For many, the question arises: Does being a Christian intensify these difficulties, or is there something else at play? Furthermore, is it wrong for individuals to desire consolations and strive for peace in the midst of trials? These are complex questions that delve into the heart of the Christian experience.
In this latest chat, we will explore the perspectives of St. Francis de Sales and the traditions of the Church on these matters and seek to understand the virtue of humility and its significance in navigating life's struggles. Drawing from these conversations, we will delve into the depths of these existential queries, seeking wisdom and insights to help guide us in our own journeys.
Come embark on a contemplative journey as you engage in prayerful reflection on these topics in light of your own spiritual journey.
If you would like to chat with Catholics like yourself, why not check out our 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!
Question: Life is full of suffering/hardship/toil. Does it seem that being a Christian causes these things to increase, or is it something else?
Priscila: Yes, and I think it is because we try to heroically surmount our suffering or make meaning out of it, and we fail miserably at times.
Bridget: In as much as Christians are baptized into His death & have the privilege and responsibility to share in redemptive suffering, and the Lord disciplines & prunes us. I guess, in some way: Yes.
Visitation Sister: Perhaps we can recognize suffering for its value more than some others.
Bridget: But even non-Christians suffer and without the consolation of serving and being comforted by Jesus.
Priscila: Yes, but they are not trying to make best use of it like we are….and can maybe just shrug it off.
Bridget: I can’t imagine bearing with grief without the Lord, His Body, His Word, His Church.
Visitation Sister: I can’t either, but people do and maybe they harden or maybe they become compassionate even if they are not aware of the Lord.
Priscila: I can’t either, but some do. Maybe that is why there are so many addictions…etc.
Superheroes or Saints
Question: Is it wrong for us to desire consolations? Does God expect us to be superheroes?
Bridget: I don’t know that it’s “wrong,” per se, but per St. Bernard, in trying to be more mature, it’s better to seek the God of consolations than the consolations of God.
Rebecca: That’s a good quote, Bridget.
Bridget: Rebecca, I knew the quote but had to look up who said it.
Visitation Sister: Not superheroes, but with the strength of God we can do anything.
Bridget: Reminds me of our economics prof who said she didn’t assign “outside” reading since she would be happy if we would just do the assigned “inside reading.” I think God is pleased if we do our best to know, love, and serve Him —as modest and ordinary (un-superhero-like), the world might deem our efforts to be.
Priscila: God allows us our consolations…but He really doesn’t want us to use them because He wants us to use Him as our one and only consolation.
Bridget: I felt convicted by St. Francis de Sales’s quote: We would wish to say our prayers in a region of eau de cologne, and practice heroic virtue eating sugar cake. (Except I’m allergic to colognes…but mildly fragrant flowers are appreciated! And anything dark chocolate…).
Priscila: At times…I think God wants us to be super heroic when it’s called for …and that is when He deems it is necessary and not when we think it so.
Lydia: God is a great consolation. An agnostic without faith said he wished he had faith because it would be a consolation.
Rebecca: I found those expressions funny. Hyperbole, but it makes the point clearly. I still miss my “prayer room” which was severely damaged, as well as art books and other precious things, when the heating pipe burst during a power failure. Was I more attached to that special place — since I could not be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament — than to the God I chose to worship in the most comfortable room in my house?
Lydia: Maybe he did not really want it, he may have just been jealous of it.
Bridget: If we totally surrender to God’s Will, we will be at peace, even in the midst of sorrow—just as Jesus was during His Agony in the Garden.
Lydia: How does someone without faith who wants faith not get it?
Bridget: Lydia, that is a Mystery….
Priscila: No one to pray and support him with it.
Bridget: I sat next to someone on a plane once who “wished” he could have the faith that he saw in others…I thought about him and his “wish.”
Sherry: She said to me that she is sad – and envies people about their faith.
Sherry: Sometimes I get convicted that I do not thank God enough for having faith.
Lydia: Bill would see my daughter and me go to Church and say he wished he had faith.
Sherry: There are so many variables in play — identity – angst of loss of deep values, etc.
Bridget: I think about all the generations who had to be faithful so that I was baptized Catholic…if they didn’t keep and pass on the faith, I might not have it.
Sherry: Good point, Bridget.
Visitation Sister: Yes. Even if my ancestors were converted en masse, I am grateful.
Priscila: It’s funny…. people wish they had faith and admire others but have no interest in trying to gain it and work at…it takes work…hard work and prayer to keep your faith too.
Sherry: Still, Priscila, I consider my faith not a sheer output of my “work.” Rather an active collaboration with God’s grace.
Bridget: A Jewish friend commented that my Rosary, like her strand of pearls, reminded her of the connectedness of the generations of her Jewish ancestors who passed on the faith…made me think of mine….
Master of Peace
Discuss this line: “Our Lord is called in Scripture the Prince of Peace, and hence, wherever He is absolute Master, He preserves peace.”
Lydia: Trusting God does bring peace. It lets us realize we do not have control of some things, and we can say to God that it is in His hands. He will give us peace.
Sherry: In the end – one has to let go – to sit yourself on the throne… and allow GOD to be on the throne. That seems to be the hardest step for most. The loss of control.
Bridget: God’s ways are not our ways…Faith, like everything else He gives us is pure gift; gift He can give to whomever He wills…He told us to go make disciples and baptize; if everyone had Faith, that would not be.
Priscila: It is…. but collaborating with God is work.
Caroline: My faith is a gift–from my family, from my parishes, and from Jesus Himself.
Lydia: If faith is a gift, I am not sure that people can just get it when they wish for it. I think we who have it have to pray for the ones who do not, and God will work on them in a way He understands, and we do not.
Sherry: Yes, Priscila, you are right. It is work. But work as a response – if you do not hear the invitation – you are not compelled to work, I think.
Bridget: Not necessary…maybe some have no Faith for their sake & ours, so both are enriched.
Rebecca: Lydia, I think the person seeking faith Will get it; it may take a long time. God is generous in giving grace, but there are also some huge obstacles.
Sherry: Yes ,Rebecca. I had the same thought. There are huge obstacles sometimes. And highly nourished by the enemy too by the way.
Lydia: We are given more, so more is expected.
Caroline: The people who wish they had faith can have faith. They have to choose to accept the gift, and then live the way faith entails.
Sherry: I agree, Lydia. Praying for those who struggle “for faith” is really powerful.
Priscila: Nope…. according to the Catechism …man gropes for an understanding and relationship with God.
Bridget: Isn’t it that we take only charity with us to Heaven? …So, can we get there without Faith or Hope? Do they only help or are they requisite?
Sherry: Oh, Bridget. You really want us to think tonight!
Caroline: I think we need all three.
Lydia: The workers who started at the last minute got the same pay as the ones there all the time. God will save the ones who have faith at the last second.
Bridget: The Lord’s line about Faith that really makes me ponder is When the Son of Man returns, will He find Faith on Earth.
Caroline: Faith is that God is there, hope is for eternal life with Him, love is how we get there.
Sherry: I think, charity is built on a relationship with GOD in Faith and Hope. By trusting and believing in the invisible – we surrender deeper and deeper – and open ourselves to acts of charity as we grow in understanding the one who calls himself LOVE.
Lydia: The thief on the cross next to Jesus went to paradise that day.
Priscila: Like they say in exercise, etc. Either you use it, or you lose it…I think the same with faith, you have to practice it…etc.
Sherry: I agree Priscila – faith is not something passive.
Lydia: James…. faith without works is dead. Praying is a work. A person who prays at the last second can be saved.
Caroline: Praying is a work! As is gratitude.
Humility: From the Earth We Came
Question: What does it mean to be humble?
Caroline: Humility is knowing the truth about oneself.
Sherry: Yes, Caroline, I agree.
Bridget: Yes, Caroline, and realizing that every good thing we have comes from Him and giving Him praise & thanksgiving for who we are in Him.
Sherry: Which is part of knowing the truth about ourselves, Bridget – because we know – the truth that we are NOT the beginning and end of life.
Visitation Sister: Humble prayer is best.
Bridget: Sometimes I wonder who was the first ancestor of mine to accept the Catholic Faith–some “day” in Heaven, please God, I hope to meet that person and hear his/her time, place, circumstance Baptism story–and say THANKS to that person and all the others after him/her.
Sherry: I think Caroline has the right theological answer, but I still want to throw in the very well-known popular definition too. True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.
Bridget: Go, Sherry!
Caroline: By all means Sherry! This makes me think of the corporal works of mercy.
Bridget: No matter how we pray, we need to pray to the Lord, not to ourselves as the first-row Pharisee did compared with the last row penitent in the temple.
Stacy: Humble like St Joseph, quiet, but strong.
Lydia: I think God will save people because I ask Him to do it. He told St. Faustina He would do that.
Caroline: He did, Lydia, and He said the greater the sinner the more right s/he has to mercy.
Priscila: True humility is to remember that God is the source of everything …always…every breath we take…every move we make….
Bridget: Priscila, Sounds like a good song lyric.
Caroline: Lol, it is a song lyric.
Priscila: It is but is still appropriate.
Stacy: I agree, Priscila, all glory to God for everything!
Priscila: God is in charge…in us…with the Holy Spirit…it is not me …but thee.
Lydia: Separating the sheep and the goats is a bit hard to understand if God will save anyone if we ask. If we ask him to save everyone would there be any goats to separate?
Caroline: Lydia, unfortunately there will be goats who refuse the gift.
Sherry: Lydia, even St. Francis de Sales wrestled with this big question quite a bit.
Sherry: Free will can make us goats.
Lydia: If He will save someone because I ask, and I ask Him to save everyone. Then He will get to them. I think he will.
Priscila: Not if they say no.
Lydia: Why would they say no?
Caroline: Lydia, you are right to never discount the miraculous. We are not called to judge others but to meet them where they are and help them.
Sherry: Coming back to humility. For me, a big breakthrough was to always think – when emotions were rising “it is a lie to think that I deserve better.” Because this deep, deep underlying belief has often catapulted me out of a life of humility.
Bridget: Sherry–Agreed! Someone pointed out that we say, “why me?” When something “bad” happens, but not when something good….
Sherry: This “I deserve better attitude” had a lot to do with my impatience in daily life too, I noticed.
You Take the High Road, I Take the Low
Question: St. Francis says, “He first makes war there, separating the heart and soul from their dearest and most intimate affections, such as immoderate love of oneself, confidence and complacency in oneself, and other like evils.” What can we do to allow God to help us choose the high moral ground here?
Bridget: For Sister’s question. Maybe Cultivate a “Job-ian” holy detachment/gratitude-attitude—the Lord gives & the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Lord.
Sherry: Good foundation, Bridget.
Lydia: We can accept what God does to separate us from our affections by realizing that when something uncomfortable is happening, He is doing it for our good.
Stacy: For the next question: I think trust in the Lord, we need to say Thy will be done. Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, Guardian Angel, Our Lady, St Joseph, all the saints LOL.
Priscila: Surrender to Him …. even though things seem confusing and humiliating and discouraging…He knows the lessons we need to learn….and He will help us learn them in order to get to Heaven and stay in Heaven.
Caroline: Yes, Priscila. And stay by Him in the present moment.
Bridget: His timing is perfect. His love is perfect. His will is perfect. ACCEPT all as grace…easier said than done for me….
Priscila: Yes…and keep saying Jesus I’m sorry I’ve fallen again…I’m going to try and try again.
Sherry: The question is “what can we do to allow GOD?” Well, in a way, I think if we strive to truly love him, love him with all our hearts, all our mind and our strength, then we are more likely to allow him to work on us – even in difficult areas.
Bridget: Good point, Sherry. Points back to our free wills…to sin or to follow His Will.’
Sherry: Also, if we lean in to understand GOD better – understand his very being better – involves a heart – study of scripture – to seek HIM in His word – and to seek Him in prayer. This free will. Eh? I usually like everything that is free — but this free will is a tricky one.
Priscila: Keep having a firmer and firmer purpose of amendment and think of the saints who after just one fall amended their lives. Heaven is worth it.
Bridget: In one of the prayers, it refers to “freedom” as “Free to worship Him”–not free to do as we please, though we are; I like to think that all is a gift and all is well when it comes from God.
Caroline: It all comes down to staying with Him in the present moment and discerning His will for that moment.
Lydia: There is also freedom from the slavery from sin according to St. Paul.
Sherry: The kingdom of GOD is ALL about freedom. That’s what makes it the good news.
Caroline: St Catherine of Siena said sin is anything that comes between us and God.
Stacy: God calls us and waits, and waits, and we fall and go towards sin, but we can return freely.
Sherry: Prodigal son.
Lydia: I wonder what it was like in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were friends with God and could see Him. But maybe not every second, because when the devil tempted them how could they sin if they were seeing God. It was also like maybe they thought He could not see them. In Heaven, I thought we would see God all the time and hardly notice anything else.
Caroline: Eden was not heaven (?).
Lydia: Heaven is being with God.
Sherry: I wondered that too recently, Lydia. But I think – they already had free will – so they must have had a chance to retreat from the presence of God.
Caroline: True. We are with God now, but we are not in heaven.
Sherry: I know that our redeemed state of soul is superior to the one of Adam. Cause we have the Holy Spirit within us – that privilege was not given to Adam.
Blessed Are Those Who Do Not See, and Yet Believe
Bridget: Maybe seeing is not believing…A blind priest said that once: He sees because he believes; if it were the other way around, he couldn’t believe.
Lydia: We can’t see God now.
Sherry: Does it say they saw GOD, or they were with HIM?
Lydia: They were friends with God. We see Jesus in the Eucharist, but we do not see God’s face. But Adam and Eve had no sin before the fall so they could see God. The Apostles had sins and were separated like we are.
Sherry: We see with the eyes of faith.
Priscila: So were the apostles.
Sherry: I call you friends….
Caroline: This is so interesting. So was Eden on earth?
Sherry: Of course, Eden was on Earth. Adam and Eve were human beings. Created to be in creation.
Priscila: But Adam and Eve did not have an extensive relationship with God.
Rebecca: God dwells in His Body, the Church. He is the head.
Priscila: We have come to know God over years. Through the Bible.
Bridget: Some folks like to think that the Cross of Christ was on the spot of the original tree of knowledge of good & evil.
Sherry: But Jesus said no-one has ever seen God.
Lydia: We will see God in His Glory when we go to Heaven. We cannot now, because of sin.
Sherry: I know that the Cross is often called the new tree of life.
Stacy: That’s interesting, Bridget, I never thought of the original tree linked to cross.
Ines: I thought Moses spoke with God, making his own face radiant.
Caroline: New Adam, New Eve, New Tree.
Visitation Sister: In monastic life they say keep searching for the face of God, but for me the Eucharist is His face for now.
Lydia: It is, Jesus.
Ines: St. Thérèse writes about the gaze of God, and that we should gaze at him as we receive His gaze. I love this.
Lydia: But people could see Jesus. God the Father has to be hidden.
Lydia: Burning bush, etc.
Caroline: It is an interior gaze, I think.
Bridget: Did you ever see a man-made portrait and think–without ever seeing Him–that’s not Him? I know what I think He looks like.
Sherry: I love the gaze of God. St. Jane de Chantal was also known for this kind of praying. For me it is like seeing GOD, when I gaze at Him and He gazes at me. Feels like heaven. Has been a while unfortunately since I had this deep prayer.
Priscila: No…Jesus is the face (manifestation) of the Father.
Sherry: And that is what Sr. Susan said. The Eucharist is the face of God here on earth.
Lydia: We would die unless Jesus saves us and then purifies us.
Sherry: Yes, Priscila, good point.
Lydia: The beatific vision is what we will have, but we do not have it yet. I think Adam and Eve had it at first.
Caroline: It is.
Rebecca: God the Father walked with Adam and Eve as they were expelled from the Garden. He even made clothing for them.
Bridget: And then we will have no physical eyes…so interesting how we will see pre-Final Judgment.
Sherry: We will have new senses once our soul is detached from the body. So exciting. We will experience different things in the invisible realm.
Caroline: We will see without eyes and hear without ears.
Ines: New senses?
Lydia: Our body will reunite with our soul.
Sherry: Yes. Our body will reunite with our soul. Absolutely.
Lydia: In the transfiguration it was hard for them to look at Jesus in His glorified body.
If you enjoyed this chat, why not join us at our 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!