Posts Tagged With: peaceful

Coffee, Contrition, and Clarity

Saturday, September 8, 2012 – 1:10pm – Cafe Central Coffee Haus – Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

So I’ve been back in General Cepeda for about 2 months now. Earlier this week I realized that even amongst all the down time I’ve had from week to week, I’ve not left town a single time. So I decided to come to Saltillo for a few hours, just to get away. Hopped on the bus, and 35 pesos and 2 hours later I arrived. Having been here many times before, I had no desire to do anything touristy. I just wanted to walk around, explore a tiny bit, and relax.

I’d heard that just down the road from where the bus drops you off, there is a mall. Small, but nice. And the added bonus was stumbling upon this coffee shop. After I walked around the mall, I knew that this was where I’d have my chill time. Spending time at coffee houses is one of my favorite things to do back home. This habit first started during my high school days and cemented itself into my life during my college years. It’s a place and an environment where you can read, study, relax, visit, or people watch.

Did morning prayer from the breviary once I sat down with my frappucino. Also read alot from a book by Ralph Martin, a prominent figure within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. People-watched. Enjoyed the calm, relaxing atmosphere. The soothing hum of the coffee machines, coolers, and various other appliances. Realizing through all of this that we should always have some scheduled down-time, just to relax, refresh, re-energize, and get away for a bit. Also realizing that a key element in living apart from your favorite places and people is to always carry them in your heart. Another key element is to seek out a little taste of home wherever you are. A peaceful coffee shop. A city park. A grocery store. A shopping mall to aimlessly walk around in. These special things and little reminders are a part of who you are and what makes you unique. Embrace them. Rest in the comfort of these little blessings God sends you. They are part of what has made you who you are and gotten you to where you are. I believe in doing this, you will be more genuinely yourself and thus be better able to live and serve where God has you.

Another thing I want to share about is contrition, aka – sorrow for sins. As a Christian the more self-aware I have become, the more I have reflected on this. I feel like I am truly making progress in my spiritual life and that the Lord is helping me to find the proper balance in this area. What follows is a question I posed to several priest friends of mine and their responses. Names have been changed so that you can focus on the answers. And though not worded in exactly the same way, all of the responses essentially and basically say the same thing.

God Bless!
(the following is the question I posed to my priest friends and their responses)

Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation? Another way to phrase the question is, Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?

“My thoughts…Yes. One of the compounding negative effects of sin, especially habitual sin, is despairing emotions/shame. The progress one makes in combating sin is not all lost by a later fall. One truly does get closer to God and grows in his love and grows in trust. A later fall grieves us but our increased trust in God’s mercy dominants our emotional reaction to the sin.” –Fr.K—

“Yes, A healthy fear of sin, is a fear of the distance from God it brings. Being scared of sin means feeling that it’s bigger than God’s Mercy and therefore unforgiveable. count your blessings that you ‘ve been able to move beyond the previous despair. Despair is a trick of the Evil one, to lead you to procrastinate about Confession, to believe less and less in the Mercy of God and more and more of your worthlessness; both are lies. Sin, does not cause you to become worthless in the eyes of God. There’s nothing wrong about you, even if you’ve done something wrong!” –Fr.H—

“I think you are experiencing consolations of seeing some of the progress you’ve made. That is wonderful! I would say: yes, enjoy the good healthy reactions you have but also make sure to guard against the sin of presumption and do not let up in your efforts at self-mastery… Enjoy the consolations AND keep fighting the good fight!” –Fr.S—

“I certainly think so.” –Fr.B—

“I can only give a guess at what’s going on. First, there is a distinction in types of grace. You may have fallen from a state of “sanctifying grace” due to the sin and thus your conscience rightly pricked you making you aware of the fall. Seemingly God has blessed you simultaneously with an “actual grace” of hopefulness and love despite your fallen state. I would guess it was God presenting himself to you through “actual grace” in an attractive manner so that you trust in his future goodness and continue to follow him. You could prayerfully reflect upon this as though you were one of Jesus’ disciples in scripture before his actual death and resurrection. The joy and inspiration they received from his presence would have been more along the lines of “actual grace” (blessings from God) rather than salvific, since he had not yet offered himself in forgiveness of sins. (Of course, Jesus did forgive certain people along the way, but forgiveness was not yet offered to all prior to his death.) [The other alternative interpretation is that the feeling of “being okay” was from another spirit other than God. A way to discern this is reflecting upon whether your impulse at the time was to avoid the things of God (perhaps a subtle sense of joyful passivity and ambivalence to the things of God) or were you being drawn toward God and a deeper awareness of the peace and love that he reveals?]” –Fr.J—

“ the short answer is yes. Feelings are not a necessary part of the spiritual life. The spiritual life resides in “the will,” not “the heart.” And so you ought to have an intellectual fear of the consequence of sin and have the strength of will to avoid sin. If your feelings support those, super good! If they don’t, well that’s not a big deal. It is not necessary to feel sad or even frustrated when you sin. All that is required is contrition – which is an intellectual understanding of the consequence of sin and a disposition of will to make amends. Of course, all that’s very clinical. Unless you’re a robot, your emotions will play a part. Just don’t give them too much power over you. You can be contrite, even when you’re not “feeling it.” And contrition is what you need, not sadness or despair.” –Fr.R—

“Interesting that you ask this because I was talking about it with someone the other day. I think it is possible to have a healthy fear of sin and yet not be given to great sadness or despair in committing sin. Especially with sins that have been habitual to some extent in the past and from which we are trying to purify ourselves, I think we can arrive at a point at which, though we may fall into sin we realize that God is still working with us and trust in His mercy. There’s a book called “Clean of Heart” that is a 50-day meditation on sexual purity. In the introduction it speaks of a similar thing, namely when one falls they ought not too fall into great despair and get overly-consumed with the actions of the past but simply recognize one’s brokenness, bring it before the Lord in confession and continue the battle again. Hopefully that makes some sense.” –Fr.B—

“In a simple answer, it is possible. The more we grow in trust in the Lord the more we also grow in developing a healthy fear of sin. The challenge if one falls though, regardless of the sin, is to never become complacent. In other words, to recognize the seriousness of sin and go to confession as soon as possible, but at the same time not to despair because one has fallen. This comes with developing a healthy fear of the Lord.” –Fr.G—

“First off, I want to congratulate you for cooperating with God’s grace to create ways to protect yourself from sins of impurity. This is the point of confession: not just to shed the guilt of past sins, but (just as importantly) give strength to change these sinful behaviors and to break free from old patterns.

I definitely feel that your new perspective on sin is another a sign of God’s grace affecting your heart and mind.

That “normal” past sense of despair after falling into sin is healthy and necessary in the early stages of spiritual development. As you mentioned, our conscience must be attuned to the evil ugliness of sin and should thrust us into a healthy sense of guilt and remorse as well as compel us to go to confession ASAP. But as we grow and mature in the spiritual life, we should develop a greater sense of confidence in Christ’s victory over our sins.

So… Yes it is possible – and is in fact the goal- “to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation.” That sense of despair that you used to feel was in some way a lack of confidence in Christ’s power over your sins. This transition in thinking that you’ve described is a transition from worry about what you have done (sin) and what you now have to do (discipline) toward a confidence in what Christ has done (died on the cross/forgiven your sins) and what you and HE together now have to do (cooperate).

So… “Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?”… Yes. Because with Christ by your side there is no reason to fear sin. He has already conquered it. 2000 years ago. It’s done.

This is the transformative power of God’s forgiveness given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Hope this helps.”

–Fr.M–

“When we realize that sin is not distasteful to God, but that we have messed up our relationship with Him we are usually moved to fix it as soon as possible. Humility tells us that we have more work to do. It is no longer a childish fear, but an adult understanding of what I have to do. We have hurt the One who loves us most and most perfectly. Sorrow is a condition that comes, but in itself does not necessarily give feelings. Instead, it is the movement to get things right.”

–Fr.B–

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Silence and The Sower

Friday, August 17, 2012 – Noon – Ejido Tejocote – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Sometimes we prepare the soil. Sometimes we sow the seeds. Sometimes we water and nurture the plants as they grow. Sometimes we reap the harvest. All 4 are important. These were some of the thoughts that came to me during my weekly desert day prayer time. In my time here in Mexico I’ve been slowly reconnecting with my childhood hobby of gardening. I’ve also been thinkin’ about the parable of the sower and what happens to the seeds when they fall on the different types of soil.

And that’s what got me thinking about the 4 stages I mentioned above. So much emphasis is put on the reaping of the harvest. But so often we forget that for there to even be a harvest, someone has to first prepare the soil. No good soil = no plant. And what good does it do to prepare the soil if we aren’t actually planting the seed. Furthermore, if we plant the seed but never water it, nor prune and nurture the plant as it grows, then all has been for nought. And as we all know, if you do all that but don’t actually go out and reap the harvest, then it’s a waste. Maybe because of the line of “work” i’m in, I can’t help but think in terms of evangelizing and helping others. To me, preparing the soil is equivalent to forming a relationship with people. Sowing the seeds is equivalent to evangelizing. Watering and nurturing the plant is the follow-up that must be done and the maintaining of the relationship. And reaping the harvest is equivalent to helping them put their gifts to good use.

As I sat in silence during my desert day prayer time, I was enveloped by peace and stillness and this came to me: “The most profound silence I’ve ever experienced outside of Eucharistic Adoration has been during my experiences of desert day prayer time. Sometimes it’s so peaceful and quiet that I think I may have gone deaf because I see a blade of grass moving silently, or a spider web glistening in the sun. But without fail, I end up hearing the breeze blowing over the rocks and through the trees. And I think the silence is as profound as it it because of its nature. It’s not a purely nature-inspired silence. It’s not a mere admiration filled with awe and a love for natural beauty. It’s a God-infused silence that stills you way beyond the capacity of anything in the nature created realm to do so. It’s the Creator inhabiting his Creation.

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Desert Day Musings, Frank Summers Style

Friday – July 13, 2012 – 3:00pm – near Rancho La Puerta – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

My Desert Day prayer time musings were definitely in the style of Frank Summers today. Just went and sat with my bible. Observed all the various things in nature and different stimuli that surrounded me. 

First bible verse that came to mind: “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not grow faint.”     –Isaiah 40:31–

-Placed myself in God’s peaceful presence – Rain reminded me of his blessings raining down on me – Tried to come to Desert Day without an agenda or “to-do” list – Wanted to come here just to be in His presence and hear him – My time is not mine, it’s His – The same can be said for my talents, treasure, and any other blessing I’ve received – Be present to your mission – Focus more on relationships with people – I hear the magnificent rolling thunder in the distance, and I’m reminded of a verse from the hymn “How Great Thou Art” – The wind reminds me of the Holy Spirit – I can’t see the source/cause, but I can see, hear, and feel the effects – Instead of leaving our Desert Day spot during the rain, we took shelter in the gray van – Reminded me of the Psalms that talk about God being our refuge – Also reminded me of the Psalms that talk about taking shelter under God’s wings – The rain/thunder/lightning is intimidating yet beautiful – The missing rear-view mirror reminds me to go foreward and stop looking back

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So the other day I was in the confessional…………

So, yesterday I was in need of the Sacrament of Confession (what’s new, huh?). I started the day with plans to try and escape during my lunch break and hit up confession @ Cathedral. However, my dad called me and said “Hey, I got some missionary work I need you to help me with”. As a domestic missionary and future foreign missionary, I couldn’t say no, and I think it’s cuz he used the word “missionary”. Yeah, had he not used that word, I might not have been as inclined to help. But I think he knew what he was doing when he used that word. The great part about it was that besides helping do some maintenance and yard work for a family member, I realized my dad was associating what he does here in the U.S. as missionary work (praise God!). I also realized that he was starting to associate the word “missionary” with the word “Sid”. 🙂

So I pull some strings with my other boss (mom), and leave the shop right after lunch. I go to help him do the work and without hesitation, but I still have in the back of my mind that I can be done early enough to maybe hit up afternoon confession @ Cathedral. As we work into the afternoon and I see how much we had to accomplish, I knew that Cathedral wasn’t going to be an option. This was mildly difficult for me, b/c when I need to receive God’s mercy in The Sacrament of Confession, I don’t play around. I go as soon as I can. But, I didn’t worry too much b/c I knew my delay in going to Confession was due to a worthy cause. I think it was also good because my eagerness to receive that Sacrament can sometimes cause me to get impatient when I can’t go right away. So,  I know the good Lord was teaching me patience. God was also putting it on my heart that the poor I will be serving on missions hardly ever have access to a priest or the Sacraments. It was God’s way of helping me to have compassion for them.

After we finished working, and ate supper at my parents’ house with my nieces, I get a hunch to drive to the Community of Jesus Crucified to see if one of the priests can hear my confession. Sure enough, Fr. Frey was more than happy to do it. After the confession, we chatted a little bit, and I asked him if they were still having night prayer at 9. He told me yes, and that he was gonna be saying a Mass immediately afterwards. Considering daily Mass time is at 6:15am, this was a pleasant surprise! In this small, humble little chapel, it was Fr. Frey, 3 other people & me. It was one of the most chilled, peaceful, relaxing, prayerful, and intimate Masses I’ve ever been to. Of course, Fr. Frey is so holy and dedicated and he’s a great homilist too, that any Mass he does is good. It was just kinda neat to see how I went from not thinking I’d get to go to Confession or Mass, to having both. Yet another instance of God loving me unconditionally and showering blessing upon me even when I don’t deserve it. In the interest of privacy, I simply ask you to say a prayer for this family member, for healing in all areas of life, and for a closer walk with God. Please say a prayer too that I would learn the guitar well (I’m teaching myself) so that I can use it as an evangelization tool in missions. Thank You & Praise God!

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