Saturday, March 5, 2011

Accepting all things with equal reverence

For new readers, the following blog is a repost from the April, 2010 archives.

In the book, The Dialogue, God tells St. Catherine of Sienna that his servants accept all things with equal reverence. Their discerning eye sees everything as being ordained by Divine Providence. God the Father goes on to say that the faithful disciple of His Son "holds all thing in reverence, the left hand as well as the right, trouble as well as consolation, hunger and thirst as well as eating and drinking, cold and heat and nakedness as well as clothing, life as well as death, honor as well as disgrace, distress as well as comfort. In all things he remains solid, firm and stable, because his foundation is the living Rock."

This was the spiritual and missionary secret behind the success St. Paul enjoyed in laying the foundation of Christianity. At the beginning of his ministry, the Lord showed him "all that he would suffer." To press forward, even after being beatened, imprisoned and rejected by his own people, he had learned to rejoice in the Cross. This is why he can, with credibility, write the following about himself: “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

What a difficult thing to do: to not only accept but to will all that God sends us in our daily circumstances, be they pleasant or painful. But that is what it means to be a Saint: to will what God wills because he wills it.

This grace was given to yet another Saint: St. Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism to Catholicism. St. Edith, because of her Jewish identity, was one of the millions of victims in the holocaust. Like no other victim, however, she demonstrated a calm and resolve in the concentration camp of Auschwitz . Being a Carmelite nun, she was used to daily prayer and spiritual sacrifices.

According to one eye witness at Auschwitz, she was taking care of all the children who were abandoned by their mothers. These women simply couldn’t cope with the situation they were in. Indeed, they had every reason to be terrified. They heard the stories of how the Jews were exterminated. St. Edith Stein was well aware of her fate too: which was to die in the gas chamber. Still, she found peace in God and was able to help those in need during her last week on earth. All this was possible because she willed what God willed. Belonging entirely to Christ, her will was no longer her own.

Heroism, such as the one St. Edith displayed, begins in the daily acceptance of God's will, whatever the circumstance. Chipping away at the preferences, desires, and false ideals we hold on to is certainly a kind of death to self. However, it is hastened by a frequent examination of conscience, an honest admission of our faults and a continual turning to Christ for making up what is lacking in us. The reward is incalculable! St. Dorotheus couldn’t have said it better: “The man who finds fault with himself accepts all things cheerfully – misfortune, loss, disgrace, dishonor and any other kind of adversity. He believes that he is deserving of all these things and nothing can disturb him. No one could be more at peace than this man.”

What at first appears to be a drudgery of sorts becomes an instrument of peace. This union of wills- between Christ and his faithful follower -is the beginning of heaven here on earth. But before we possess this peace, we have to accept all things with equal reverence as coming from the wise counsel of God.