Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Test of Spiritual Mettle

I brought only one book to Italy with me, Story of a Soul, which I tried to read from a little each night.  Each hotel room I stayed in was furnished with a Bible, so I read a little bit from the New Testament as well, but mostly, with the little bit of time on my hands at night, I would read St. Therese's autobiography.  I never cease to be amazed at her resolve in the face of unimaginable physical suffering.  Through it all, she never stopped praying, even when the only prayer she could manage was: "My God, I love You".

If I came home determined to do one thing, it was to have the resolve not to give in to sin and temptation when I am physically not up to snuff.  Every time an uncharitable or inappropriate thought attempts to cross my mind, I have a choice. I can choose to see where it leads me, or I can close the door on it by immersing myself in prayer.  The prayer can be as simple as a Hail Mary.  The choice is mine and I am working to make the right one.

A friend and I have been discussing the recent pilgrimage we took and the spiritual benefit we gained from it.  Particularly because of my trials with J I felt as though I had squandered a wonderful opportunity.  I was grateful for my friend's perspective.  As Richard Collins pointed out, a pilgrimage wasn't meant to be overly enjoyable, but was I wrong for seeking some solitude?  My friend reminded me of the process involved in refining gold.  It's not a glamorous or painless process, but look at the end result.

The pilgrimage was a test of a different kind of mettle.  Perhaps I wasn't meant to behave perfectly toward a poor soul but simply to learn from the experience so that the next time the Lord puts a J in my midst, I might react more charitably and see the gift he apparently was to my friend.  I think I might be on to something with this because of what happened Sunday morning.

Sunday is the one day of the week I like to pray my Rosary while still in bed.  The rest of the week, I pray it before or after Mass, but I enjoy the quiet of my room on Sunday morning after Mr. Little Way has departed for early Mass and the kids and canines are still asleep.  Then I head down to wake my son for Mass (something he refuses to do on his own, but I digress) and catch up with the paper and the blogs and whatever goodies my husband has brought back from the bakery.  This Sunday, there was a rap at the door at the crack of 9am, and I was ready to blast a Jehovah's Witness, only it wasn't a JW, it was a friend of my husband's whose elevator doesn't reach the top floor.  I was really po'd because I don't relish uninvited, unannounced guests, especially during Sunday Silence (thanks Allison, for that!)  so I stomped up the steps as my husband opened the door to him.  I had a choice. I could continue my tantrum and stay upstairs and bang doors and stomp and make my displeasure apparent, or I could go down stairs and be gracious.  I did something in the middle.

The marvelous thing about inconsiderate people is that it can be difficult to offend them, and so this gentleman was oblivious to my displeasure.  He asked me about my trip to Italy and more than any other person  with whom I had discussed the trip in person, he showed a keen interest in the holy places we saw, asking me what my favorite place was and why.  He said he hoped I had brought back some icons, so I showed him the triptych of St. Michael. He was in awe, telling me how St. Michael was his patron saint and how much he'd give to have been able to visit the grotto.  The next thing I knew, the Lord was putting words not my own into my mouth.

"Would you like to have this?"

I nearly gasped myself at the offer.  Surely, this wasn't me doing the asking, but I had no choice now but to play along.

"Are you sure?" was the incredulous response.

That was all the affirmation I needed.  I still had the wrapping that had safely seen St. Michael home from Italy, so I got him ready to go.  The poor guy was so ecstatic, he just started rambling.

"This means a lot to me. I lost all my icons in the divorce. I can't believe you'd give this beautiful icon away."

I'm hoping that when I handed that triptych over, I also relinquished the selfish part of me that seeks my own pleasure and contentment, whether or not it's at the expense of a poor soul or not.

"God's not fooling around with us anymore," my fellow pilgrim and friend told me.  "He's expecting some serious change from both of us."

And with the help of His Grace alone, He will get it.


  1. I think your friend is right, Joyce. God's not fooling around with any of us anymore. The things I use to excuse and write off...those days are long over. It was good of you to share your pilgrimage with us...Someday I hope to have the funds to go...but until then...we learn from one another.


  2. Wow, I don't know if I could have given him that. Is it a sin to have kept it? It certainly was generous of you.

    Bless you though.

  3. Every journey brings some wisdom.

    Your journey and your thoughtful recounting of them and the movements on your heart are bringing something to your readers as well. Very moving post.

    God bless.

  4. Heavens Joyce, you put me to shame. What a generous gift. That's a hard act to follow.

  5. i hope you don't mind an anonymous comment, but i had to slip out of my identity to post this...about 15 yrs. ago i was at a sunday Mass & my life was somewhat a mess. i knew without a doubt that God was "reworking" things within me & around me. i wallowing in self pity during the offertory & when the basket came up to me, i distinctly heard (over the usual chaos of our then-2, 4, 6, & 8 yr olds: "put your anniversary ring in the basket." i bought that ring out of self-pity & to partially punish & partially indulge my husband who told me he would rather i buy something i really like than him choose something i didn't. i was taken aback & mentally responded to the effect of "but how will they deal with this when they count the money?" again, clearly: "put it in there & let me take care of that." so i secretly slipped off the ring & did it. that was the beginning of my detachment from this world & my learning to suffer silently. VERY valuable lessons in the ensuing years! God bless you & your response to God's mysterious movement in your life!

  6. Thank you all for the comments.

    Richard, that wasn't me who gave that triptych away, that was Christ acting through me.

    Anonymous, no problem, thank you for sharing that moment of conversion.

    Allison and Manny, thank you as well. Again, remember it wasn't me who gave that away but the One Who acted through me.

    Caroline, I pray you will have that opportunity but I also know that on the path you're now traveling, you do not need to go to Italy to have such Epiphanies.

    I learn so much from all of you all of the time.


Comments which reflect true Christian charity are always welcome. Comments which attack the Pope, the Church, priests or other bloggers will go in the dustbin, especially if they are anonymous. Thank you and God Bless you!