Well I am going to be switching things up today. Since the weather forecast for this Saturday is supposed to be a deluge of snow, Jim suggested I do my long run on Friday so I could run outside. That makes today, Thursday, a rest day this week.
I try to hit morning mass once a week, during the middle sometime, you know, kinda sprinkle that spiritual food evenly so it can do the most good, so today was the day. As always, very nice. I am struck recently by the word changes they have implemented over the last few years in the mass, mainly during the consecration when the priest is asking for blessing on the bread and wine, he asks God to call down the “Spirit like the dewfall”.
I find that very interesting how those words, words describing a thing in nature, were used to describe that blessed moment. I think about the dewfall, and it is such a pleasant image: I see summer mornings. I think of childhood and running barefoot through the tall, wet grass. Childish curiosity thinks nothing of getting right down onto the ground to investigate. You see from youth that those droplets of dew cover the whole blade, even in the thickest sections of grass, there is dew evenly distributed right down to the base, and in the morning sunshine it glistens. But, there is no dew in areas that are densely shaded; areas that are always dark do not receive that consuming dew moisture.
What a beautiful thing to think about. And I am seeing in recent months, this image, this way of the Holy Spirit played out in my life. That I am even thinking of these things is amazing to me, and is just the littlest prompting of the Spirit in response to my prayer, “I want to know You.” But is that little voice the Holy Spirit? All the nonsense that churns around in my brain, all the stresses and worries- is it the small voice of the Spirit of GOD… or am I just pre-menstrual? Are the little inconveniences and struggles just the innocent happenings of life, or does God have His hand in, giving me the little crosses I have knelt down and asked Him for?
That is another reason why I relate so much to St. Therese. She recognized and truly believed God was speaking to her in all the little things. She never had visions, she wasn’t a mystic, or received the stigmata. The last year and a half she lived in “darkness”, not feeling the presence of Jesus, thoughts of doubt and discouragement filled her- even doubting the existence of God and heaven. For her, she saw this clearly as a beloved cross given by God; she saw it as the struggle between the devil’s temptations and the workings of Jesus in her life.
I can relate to the way God worked in her. In hearing about her life I believe in her road and relationship with Jesus, how the Holy Spirit did not come with a loud, thundering voice and actions, but in the simple, ordinary living of a cloistered young nun.
I know the Holy Spirit works different in each person, as it says: (1 Corinthians 12: 4-7)
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
But I think for most of humanity, there is no big bolt of lightning, or earthquake, or great wind. No, He descends in the “tiny whispering sound” (1 Kings 19:12) and the dewfall- which comes silently, almost imperceptivity, and with the dawn you are bathed in it. I am thinking more on this because I have been listening to the recorded talk, given by Ralph Martin of Renewal Ministries on St. Therese called “Surrendered to Love, the wisdom of Therese of Lisieux”
What is it about this young woman, who died at twenty-four, who never left the grill of the cloister yet is now about the most popular saint there is and a doctor of the church? Well for me it is her humanness, her attainable, relatable humanness. I have thought for a long time now (upon reflecting on the life of my mother and her road to heaven) how we Catholics have a wrong impression of the saints. With the stories of their great feats and unshakeable love we see them as these creatures separated from the common snares of everyday life and struggles. Heck, weren’t they levitating most of the time, with words of inspired wisdom bursting forth from them like holy beacons?
That ain’t me, that’s for sure. But Therese, in her writings, paints another picture in her road to human perfection. She speaks always of her littleness, how she is the weakest of God’s creatures. We must not see some kind of feigned modestly here, but instead her understanding of what truth is. One of my favorite quotes is from my other patron saint, St. Teresa of Avila, who said, “Humility is truth.” You can ponder that one forever because it is a mouthful. Therese, in her simple humility saw that she could honestly do nothing good without God working in her.
She would talk about falling asleep while saying the rosary or meditating (I’m good at that) but she was sure that Mary loved her anyway, how she was irritated by another nun who made annoying sounds when she prayed. She tried, in her little way, to offer these small opportunities, these little flowers to festoon the throne of God, but sometimes it would be too difficult, and she would have to flee rather than fight. (How human and normal is that?!) She was not disturbed to see the weakness in herself, her incapacity to love. As Ralph Martin talked about in his presentation, she would say Jesus does not demand large actions from us but simply love and gratitude.
These words fill me with such a joy because it takes me back to the last week of my mother’s life, when I truly feel that God picked me up and carried me, a time when I was most in union with the will of God. At this lowest time, the two things that stand out were my overwhelming feelings of gratitude and love. It was indescribable, and as the ball has gotten rolling for this marathon gig, as I would often come and sit with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, those consuming feelings of love and gratitude have slammed into me like a bulldozer.
Then in those moments I mentally want to scoop up all that is in me, all my crosses, all my gratitude and joy, all those people God has given me to love… and I push them forward, into His Sacred Heart. In those moments I want to give back love for love. I read in my Magnificat, “Mary never keeps any glory for herself. Her soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1:46). This is what I am doing I guess (speaking as that third person again, who stands back and observes the workings of God). This for me is what is meant by my soul, magnifying the Lord. Wow! Totally cool.
It is this little whorl wind of getting and reflecting back in gratitude. I want to thank Him! But, in my humanness I reach into my pockets for payment, and they are empty. I have nothing. I am nothing. There is nothing that I have of any merit that I can claim for my own. I can only give Jesus back to Jesus because He is all-love, He is my only good. He is everything.
This is Therese’s message. The fleeting times when I “get it” are really something special. And like Therese I want to ask Jesus to take full possession of my heart. I want Jesus to live in me, like in the tabernacle. Wow. And let me tell you with all truth. There are times when I actually mean all this stuff! Really! Of course it is a constant battle that I am sure will be fought out for years to come, me and my colossal greatness against the Truth, the only Way, the only Life. Hey, I’m a work in progress. I’m bunny hopping in my journey toward perfection. Can’t rush these things.