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Catholic Spiritual Direction

CSD Book Club – The Imitation of Christ (week 7 of 10)

February 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Imitation of Christ

The Sweet Peace of Surrender

Disciple:

Lord, how often should I resign myself and what should I renounce?

Jesus:

Always and at all times; small things as well as great ones. I make no exceptions. I want to find you stripped naked of everything. Unless you good portion picture1outwardly and inwardly divest yourself of your will, how can you be Mine, or how can I be yours?

The sooner you do this, the better off you will be. The more sincerely and more completely you put this into practice, so much the more will you please Me, and so much the greater the gain that will be yours.

Some people make this resignation of themselves but at the same time they attach one or two conditions. These people do not have full trust in God and so they seek to provide for themselves. And there are some who at the beginning do fully resign themselves, but later on, tired by temptation, they take back what they had previously renounced and as a result make no progress in attaining virtue.

Unless these people unconditionally surrender themselves and daily offer themselves as a sacrifice to Me, they will never achieve the true freedom of a pure heart, nor will they obtain the grace of a delightful familiarity with Me. Without such a self-surrender there can never be a happy and joyful union between us. – The Imitation of Christ, Book III, Ch. 37, p. 132-133.

 

His scream shook the silence of slumber in our small clapboard home. My husband and I were halfway down the hall before we were even fully awake – our bodies sprinting instinctively to the sound of our four-year-old son’s voice, which was filled with indescribable terror. Because he was so distraught, it took us a few minutes to realize through his pleas that he couldn’t move his legs. He was completely paralyzed from the waist down.

I’m not sure how my husband felt, but my blood ran cold, and I began instantly praying for the Holy Spirit to guide us through that moment. After the initial shock and confusion, we assured our son with soothing voices that his legs must just be asleep, and that they would be fine within a few minutes.

But they weren’t. After much poking and prodding and pushing – anything to see some resistance in his legs – we realized this might be serious. In the end, my son and I headed for the emergency room while my husband stayed home with our younger children.

You’d think that would have been the longest drive of my life. But it wasn’t at all. In fact, despite obvious concerns, I still remember, ten years later, the peace that absolutely engulfed me on my way to the hospital that Saturday morning. Yes, I felt helpless. But in my helplessness, I completely surrendered my son and our future to our Heavenly Father. And the moment I cast that weight off my shoulders I was wrapped in an embrace so warm and so strong that I was certain I could withstand any storm.

Of course, I did run a list of possibilities off in my mind – muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, a rare muscular disease – but I felt the Holy Spirit preparing me for the outcome of any of these possibilities and more by enveloping me in His love.

 

The above is only one example among many of my having experienced the peace that accompanies complete surrender. Sometimes things have worked out the way I would have chosen, and sometimes they haven’t. But either way, I’ve been OK. Why? Because I wasn’t surrendering to myself. I was surrendering to God. In each one of those beautiful, memorable moments, I united my will with His will.

But sadly, I have only completely surrendered to God in moments of complete loss. In those moments when I was “stripped naked of everything.” When I had no where else to go. Each time was followed by a peace that “surpasses all understanding,” but those moments have been way too few and far between.

As Thomas a Kempis says, I must surrender always and at all times; [in] small things as well as great ones. I need most to realize that I am never actually in control. This life, and everything in it is fleeting.

Once in a while I remember the truth – that control is a ruse – that in reality the only power I really have comes from God (therefore I personally have no power).  In those moments I surrender – particularly after reading a great book like Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence. But it never lasts long. Like Thomas a Kempis says, I get tired by temptation (how does he know me so well?!). The temptation to live in the myth of my ability to be in control – the temptation to let my pride get the best of me.

Imagine the calm if every morning I would surrender to Him:

When the baby wakes early from her nap and I still have five things I need to finish – I am at peace.

Or when my husband has to leave town for work at the last minute and I have a meeting to attend that night – I am at peace.

Or when my house is in chaos because we’ve had a busy week, or even when our children are behaving in ways that we would never had imagined before we had them – I am at peace, because God, my Heavenly Father, has willed it so.  

And what about the “unknowns”? You know – Will my children choose to follow Christ as adults? Will my husband keep his job with the sale of his company? Will our car make it another month? If not, how will we replace it? The “unknowns” tend to keep me up at night. But in the end, it will all be OK – no matter what happens – because God, my Heavenly Father, has willed it so.

At all times, and in all circumstances, I must remember the words of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

If I can only surrender everything, great and small, the amazing feeling of peace I had throughout that horrific experience would not be a memory, but a daily consolation.  It may be mean a daily struggle with my “self” – but oh, the joy of peace

 

[For those of you who are curious as to what happened to our son: The doctors were stumped. We were in the hospital for the entire day, seeing numerous on-call specialists.  They mentioned most of the possibilities I listed above; but in the end, the tests weren’t conclusive, and the doctors suggested we see a neurologist that Monday morning. By the end of that first day, my son had a little feeling back in his legs. By the next morning he could walk weakly with a significant limp. And within four days, he was perfectly fine. Based on a lack of other possibilities, the neurologist concluded that our son must have had a rare virus that simply attacked his leg muscles. Thankfully, the virus has never come back.]

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you find more difficulty surrendering in some instances than in others?  Why do you think that might be?  What helps you to surrender all?

2. Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week’s reading.

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 8: Book 3 Ch. 44-54

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/blog/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages three to fifteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the CSD book club so she could embark with likeminded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. In addition to moderating the book club and managing family activities, Vicki also cooks, does laundry, cleans, does laundry, and, every once in a while, finds time to write and speak on topics such as marriage and spiritual reading - of course, these endeavors take place only between her many loads of laundry.

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  • Robert Kraus

    Wow, a powerful testimony. I can definitely say I am consumed by the “unknowns” too…car repairs, balancing our family budget, my health, you name it. I think I get it a little better this time. Surrendering to God is not about not acting in your life, and believing 100% in God’s Providence doing the work for you. It sounds like an openness to whatever result God wills and permits in your life, and your attitude, your openness, and your surrender, affect more yourself and your disposition and not the result of each particular action. I hope I worded that right. :)

    • Vicki

      Great comments, Robert!  I was going to address this exact point, but I ran out of space!  I think resignation has a very negative connotation in our culture – it basically means “giving up.”  That’s not at all the way a Kempis used the term.  I believe he is saying, as you said, that we resign ourselves to the outcome, but we don’t just sit back and let things happen to us.  I think the notion of “releasing” our attachment to the outcome can actually help us to work harder because we release the stress as well as the pride that tends to hold us back.  Instead, we do our best and hand the outcome back to God.  

      By the way – I really look forward to seeing your comments every week – you often seem to set the tone for the conversation.  Thanks so much for all your time and effort!

  • KAACD

    There are times when I tell God, “It is your will, please guide me” but  I think God knows my heart and I’m not ready to surrender, even though I say it.  I get so confused, which I know is not from God. Maybe I’m still trying to have it my way and I’m not listening or open to the result of God’s will.  I want to make people around me happy and maybe the result of God’s will is not about pleasing other’s it’s about pleasing Him.  

    • Vicki

      Good point.  Sometimes discernment is difficult – especially as relates to our relationships, because Christ himself tells us that, as we treat the least of our brethren, we treat Him.  On the other hand, I’ve also heard Fr. Robert Barron say that if we want to know whether we are following God’s will, we need to look at Galatians 5.  There Paul tells us that the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self control (Galatians 5:22-24).  He (Father Barron) says if we are seeing these fruits in our life, we are on track.  If our decisions are not producing these fruits, we are not.  He does a great job of understanding these fruits in a practical way – we’re not talking “feelings” but true fruit.  Of course, Father is much more eloquent and educated than I am, so you may want to watch his brief talk:  http://www.wordonfire.org/WOF-TV/Commentaries-New/Fr-Barron-comments-on-The-Holy-Spirit.aspx   

      • CeciliaMarks

        Vicki, thank you, thank you, just the video I needed at this time…

      • KAACD

        Thank you, I watched the video and it helped explained. I was excited to reread Galatians with a “new” look.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJPSTEVMQAO3LALLJEHDGQTXOI Teresa

    Meditating on this I see in my own life inner turmoil I have asked over and over for The Lord to rid of. I am reminded in confession that I will be healed in Gods time and not mine. I also reminded how I should take joy in suffering. This is a hard pill to swallow but little by little it is accepted if I remember to unify it with Christs suffering on the cross for my sins. At least I can do what he ask.

    • CeciliaMarks

      Teresa, these last few weeks I have been using 2 books for my meditations: Imitation of Christ and “Conversations with the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus” Vol. 2 by “Anne” the Lay Apostle.  The following passage came to mind when I read your sharing:
      “My child, with such gratitude I view your efforts.  I am here waiting in the tabernacle to thank you and encourage you. You are trying to serve Me in your life and it is not always easy to do this.  Until a complete union or surrender occurs, you continue to wrestle with the pull of the world and worldly attractions and distractions. This creates conflict in you because I am calling you in another direction.  This conflict makes you feel discouraged, dear one, but you should not allow this feeling.  There is not growth without some bit of discomfort. So, when you feel unsettled and you long for old habits, remember that you used those habits to console yourself in emptiness.  I am now filling that emptiness for you so you do not need to rely on these things anymore. Worldly habits or addictions did not make you happy, My little soul.  You felt unrest and bitterness without Me. Now, with Me, you are beginning to experience true peace, the peace which comes from heaven….”

      • Becky Ward

        WOW!!  I love that!  Thanks Cecilia!!

      • BeckitaMaria

        Amen.  Cecilia, I facilitate a Lay Apostle prayer group and am rereading the volumes for the third time as I am washed in HOPE anew with each reading.  Thanks for posting this passage. 

  • http://www.bigtopphotobooth.com/ DeAnne Ridge

    I know I draw closer to God in adversity but it sure does get tiresome always being in adversity. I seem to stay there. I feel like I”m pretty good at surrendering, what I’m not good at is figuring out what my part is. Any advice?

    • Vicki

      Deanne-
      I’m so pleased that you shared your comments.  I don’t think you’re alone in wondering why adversity always seems to find you.  I’ve been there myself.  I’m sure your sharing has helped many others to realize that they are not alone either.

      I don’t know how theological this advice is, but it may be something to think about – I am reading one of C.S. Lewis’ Narnian books to my kids right now: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – maybe you’ve read it?  Anyway, I’ve read it several times, but something new hit me yesterday.  In the beginning, we are introduced to Eustace Scrubb, a very negative and rather nasty young boy.  [Let me begin by saying I am NOT pegging you as Eustace in this analogy:).]  In the beginning of the story, the main characters end up being pulled onto a ship in Narnia.  Eustace is all upset by how wrong everything is going.  But here, his frustration is juxtaposed by Lucy’s positive attitude: “The cabin was very tiny, but bright…Caspian’s clothes were too big for her, but she could manage.  His shoes, sandals and sea boots were hopelessly big but she did not mind going barefoot on board ship…She felt quite sure they were in for a lovely time.”  This passage really hit me, because I noticed that Lucy’s situation was no better than Eustace’s, but she chose to look at things from an entirely different perspective.  I thought about the way I sometimes look at things that are not going according to plan, and realized that perhaps I could choose to look at them differently as well.  Granted, the situations would still be there, but they might not be quite as painful if I approached them with gratitude and surrendered the outcome to God.  I don’t know whether this helps or not – you may already be approaching your suffering like Lucy and just still wishing silently for it to end:).  But I thought I’d share because I was really struck by that point just yesterday.  I realize the above doesn’t address what “your part” is, which was your actual question; but as to that, my only advice is to keep going – don’t quit.  And when you feel like you can take only one more step, take it.  Don’t let the situation overwhelm you.  Offer it to God and continue to pray that His will be done.  When I was younger, I always wondered why in the Hail Holy Queen, we say we are  “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.”  The older I get, the more I see it – we will never see the “perfect” life in this world – this is where we are trained to become part of His kingdom.  We are merely in exile here – and though it’s difficult, we must always remember that this is not our permanent home – compared to eternity, this life is hardly a spec.

      Whatever your challenges, my prayers are with you.  Thanks so much for participating in the book club!

      • BeckitaMaria

        Thank you, DeAnne, for posing your question and thank you, Vicky, for this profound reply. 

        Thanks to both of you, my spirit hums in awe while pondering suffering.

  • CeciliaMarks

    Vicki, I must tell you that this morning I asked, “Lord, how does one know when one is living in Your Will and how can I surrender my self-will to your Divine Will?” Then I opened your blog and so many instances came flooding back of memories of the struggles with my children.  What mom and/or dad has not at some time in their life felt that total helplessness of their child being lost to them whether physically, emotionally or spiritually?  Understanding more of the suffering of Mary and Joseph when Jesus was lost to them that, we too, are called to learn this level of surrender as parents. 

    Many years ago one of our children was suffering a great emotional and physical loss just as she was starting college.  At the time, we did not understand the period of time it would take to heal emotionally.  Therefore, when she just “took off” one weekend, not letting anyone know where she had gone, who she was with or whether she was alive or not, our family was devastated. We literally prayed our entire rosary with our arms lifted in surrender  begging for answers.  St. Paul states that when one member hurts, the whole body/family hurts and so it was with us.  Our oldest son asked, “Why is this happening?  We are faithful to the sacraments and pray so why are these bad things happening to us?”  We were given a teaching moment! Our answer:  “Our Faith is not a ‘good luck’ charm to avoid suffering.  We practice our Faith because we love God and He gives us the courage, strength and perseverance to withstand the storms of life.”  Years later, this son would enter the Marines telling us that he prayed many rosaries on his fingers to get him through boot camp.

    Fr. Luke Zimmer wrote in his book that there are times when we are suffering and we surrender to the Divine Will, Our Lord will heal that which we are suffering.  It seems that its the “surrender”, this growth toward a deeper faith and trust that we must learn….

    • BeckitaMaria

      Yes, Cecilia.  I, too, have found in the surrendering comes all the many graces to not only bear the suffering but to neutralize the trauma.  At first, for me anyway, surrender can be a frightening step for it seems to go against the grain.  The saints, again and again, demonstrate that in time the decision to surrender becomes second nature.  

  • Becky Ward

    What helps me to surrender all?  PRACTICE!  :)

    It is like learning any other new skill – the more we practice, the more natural it will become.  For me, my faith formation program was a huge help in this regard because I wasn’t all on my own.  I had a guide who was helping me develop my relationship with Jesus and their commitment to help me made me try harder to keep going, even at times when I would have probably quit on my own.

    St. Catherine of Sienna and St. John of the Cross (and probably others) teach that God wants us to ask for help…..He created us in a way that makes us dependent on one another.  And once we lose the independent, rebellious, prideful attitude that we can do everything all on our own……it’s amazing how much joy there is in giving control to the Lord!!  We begin to see Him INTIMATELY concerned about us, and actively involved in our every moment!!

    I turn the corner on a busy street and I’m running late……..all green lights!!  Thank you God!  I’m tired and don’t feel like making dinner….my husband comes home with something ready to eat.  Thank you God!  I remembered all of my prayers today.  Thank you God!!

    The examples are endless once we stop seeing things as coincidences, and begin to see them as they really are – acts of divine providence.

    The troubling times are harder, and we all have them.  I have noticed though, that afterward…I can almost always find a good lesson wrapped in trial and turmoil.

    • LizEst

      Excellent points Becky. 

    • Scott Kallal

      Thanks Becky for reminding us all how often God’s Providence comes through for us and we take it for granted.

  • talby

    Hello all…since I normally cannot make my posts until evening, it’s great to read the posts from the day and read the encouragement that is shared.  Vicki, you always sure to steer the conversation so beautifully…

    One of the chapters I marked as I read was Chapter 35: “Son, you are never safe in this life, but as long as you live you will always need spiritual arms.  You are in the midst of foes, and are attacked left and right.  If you do not use the shield of endurance on every side you will not be long without a wound.  Then too, if you do not set your heart immoveably upon me, with plain determination to do everything for me, then you will not be able to keep up this strenuous fight, nor gain the palm of the blessed….”  Kempis continues on in this chapter that “toils and pains, trials, vexations, anxieties…” are aids to us in become strong soldiers in Christ.  But only as we deal with them in His strength (not ours) and strengthened in the fact that truly we cannot get through this life unless we lay it all down… total surrender. 

    I have recently begun to pray by using the phrase “totus tuus”, the motto of Blessed John Paul II… Total surrender in Christ  through the most beautiful Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Seeking Mary’s help (whose life was in perfect surrender to God throughout her life) has been such a blessing to me in seeking that total surrender…giving all to God “always and every hour, in small as in great” (chap 37)… yes it is difficult if we try to surrender using our own strength or by measuring up the size of the battles that are present every day according to our feelings or apprehensions.  As Kempis writes at the end in chapter 35, Jesus tells us “I will be with you throughout every tribulation”.  That gives me peace and joy (as I bring this to my mind -He will never leave me and His love never fails) and I call upon Mary who so wonderfully reaffirms this for me.  Totus tuus….

    God Bless,
    Terrie

    • Vicki

      Terrie – That applies perfectly here – I’m going to follow your lead – what a great incantation to use throughout the day!

    • rjk123

      Terrie:  I have thought of your comment so many times in the last couple of days.  Totus Tuus!  Amen.  God bless you.

  • Scott Kallal

    First of all, regarding surrender, the hardest part for me is surrendering time to take care of the little things: grocery shopping, bureaucratic things connected with life in Italy, cooking, cleaning the house, organizing my room, etc. I HATE that stuff. I want to do big things. I don’t want to play small. And yet I know: He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. For me, I have to connect surrender to the big picture, to the greater mission, and to remembering that it is all connected together as one.

    Second, I noticed a theme of forgetting and focusing in this week’s meditations. Forget about your feelings. Forget about rest. Forget about what other people say. Forget about your own tastes and preferences. Forget about bragging, except in God. Forget even about friends giving you peace. Focus on God. Focus on patience as your shield in the battle. Focus on the truth. Thank you, Vicki, and thank you to all those whose comments inspire me to become the man, the priest, and the Apostle God made me to be.

    God bless,

    Fr. Scott, AVI
    Apostles of the Interior Life

    • rjk123

      Your comment was a meditation for me this morning.  I don’t have peace right now because tomorrow night I will be sharing my story of an abusive childhood with a class on Child Abuse and Neglect.  I have been tormented since I agreed to do it, about six weeks ago.  As much as I surrender, my mind compulsively goes back to remembering and to planning what I will say.  I would have the peace that passes all understanding if I can just suurender this all the to Lord, trust Him to take care of me as He has miraculously all these 66 years, trust that He will give me the words to say.  I need to focus on the moment, on the victory and the miraculous healing the Lord has given me, and the joy it is to share with others what the Lord has done.  Your meditation reminds me to focus, to raise my shield of Patience (the word the Lord has given me to focus on this year), to forget feelings, what other people say or think, my own tastes and preferences, fear, my desire to keep everything to myself.  To remember only the Lord and how good and gracious He is and has always been.  What do I have to fear when He has brought me through so much to a place of health and joy and victory and love of Him.  I think it must surely be Satan who is assaulting me becuase he knows what good will come out of this experience for me and for the students listening to my story. Thank you Scott for youir comment and God bless you in your priesthood and make you fruitful.  I appreciate that you read this blog and share yourself with others.  You will be a sensitive, compassionate priest. 

      • LizEst

        rjk123 – My prayers for your talk tomorrow night.  It is very difficult to tell this kind of story.  And, you are certainly quite brave to relate what happened in the past.

        You are a temple of the Holy Spirit and God is with you.  The gates of hell will never prevail.  My sense is, if you start your story by acknowledging your feelings about speaking out and how tough it is, you will find a very sympathetic and listening audience…and you may even have others come to you afterwards to share their experiences as well.  If it’s possible, try to spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament today. 

        God bless you, rjk123.

        • rjk123

          Thank you. You don’t know how much I appreciate your response. I did, in fact, spend awhile with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament this morning. What a wonderful time. Thank you for your suggestion about sharing my feelings about being there. I do hope my story is a blessing and that it is God’s work through me. Thank you for your prayers. Rachel

        • rjk123

          I just wanted to thank you for your prayers.  It’s over!  In no way was it a satisfying or happy experience for me, but that isn’t what’s important.  Apparently, it was useful for the students and the professor said that as many as half of them needed to hear it for themselves because of their  own early experiences.  I prayed out loud to begin the class, asking God to bless our time and to give me the words that would accomplish His purpose for each of us there in the class.  I shared how difficult it was for me to do this and how I have suffered for the past six weeks as I approached this class.  I told them that I knew that this pain showed that there was a deep area within me that God wanted to heal and that I needed to feel the pain and surrender it to God, as I have done from the beginning.  I reiterated throughout that God is, was, and always has been the one true source of healing and the reason why I consider myself today at age 66 a living miracle because of all He has done for me.  I showed them that from the beginning to this moment He has been a constant Presence and source of love, strength and healing for me.  This morning I feel Peace.  I think God is healing that part of me that still feels shame and wants to keep that part of me that was hurt hidden.  He asked me last night to open the doors wide for all to see.   I wasn’t shamed, as HE promised I wouldn’t be, and next time, if there is one, I believe I will be confident, at peace, and willing to glorify Him by showing what He has done in my life.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.

          • LizEst

            Rachel – How difficult for you…and yet, this morning, I am thrilled to learn of your peace.  Not everyone can do what you have done.  But then, that comes from your trust in the Lord and your faith in Him even when He is asking you to put out into the deep yet again in your life.  Yes, I also believe the Lord is healing you.  God bless you.  He is walking with you every step of the way.

          • rjk123

            Thank you. Amen!
            Rachel

          • BeckitaMaria

            Rachel, This weekend will be filled with prayer for me and I shall tuck you into my heart of prayer in special ways.  God’s Peace be yours. 

          • rjk123

            Thank you. What a beautiful image. God bless you.
            Rachel

          • Scott Kallal

            Rock on RJK!

          • Becky Ward

            AMEN!!  Let HIS light chase the fear away!!

          • rjk123

            Thank you, Father!
            Rachel

          • talby

            Thank you for the update on your previous post and for your beautiful testimony on how God is working in your heart!  After reading your inital post, you have been in my prayers this week.  Praise God for his majesty…. :)  May you continue on your path of healing.  God Bless!

      • Scott Kallal

        Thank you RJK for your incredible courage to witness to the healing the Lord has offered you. May He continue to rain down his blessings of patience and focus upon you, freeing you of your fears and granting you the peace of a warrior of Jesus Christ. Just sharing the devil’s assaults can be enough to make him flee, especially when you stand strong in the truth of God’s love for you. God bless!

        • rjk123

          I’m going to keep an savor your encouraging reply. Thank you so much! Rachel

    • LizEst

      Ah Father Scott, it is wonderful to read your words and to read your posts on this blog.  Although you hate the small stuff, you ARE playing big by allowing us a glimpse into the heart of one priest, something many of us never get to see.  It is a great gift, for which we thank you. 

      By the way, I’m not fond of cleaning either, but am heartened by St. Padre Pio’s words I read somewhere that were something like: “even rooms that nobody is in need to be dusted once a week.”  Whenever I dust I think of his words and pray that the Lord will likewise dust off my soul!  Ha!  That analogy is useful for other chores as well!

      God bless you, Father Scott…and thank you again for all your thoughtful and prayerful contributions.

      • Scott Kallal

        Thanks Liz for the encouragement. I need it!

        • LizEst

          The glory, of course, goes to the Lord from whom all good things come.

  • http://twitter.com/bepette Bepette

    I find it hard to surrender my time. I tend to want to do so many things, that I often neglect the important stuff, like prayer and communion with God and time with (and for) myself. I’m also a homeschool mom, so I’m always planning lessons, field trips, etc. Thank you! Thank you so much for your post. God bless you!

    • Vicki

      Bernadette – I’m with you 100%!  Time is a great challenge for me too!  I have to share one of my favorite passages from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (in case you’re unfamiliar with it, a devil is speaking to his protege about how to lure Christians to their “father’s kingdom” (i.e. Hell) – fyi – the ‘patient’ is the Christian in question that they are trying to lure: 

      “The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered.  Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him.  It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tete-a-tete with the friend), that throw him out of gear…They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.  You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own’.  Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours.  Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of his property which he has to make over to his employers, and a a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties.  But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright…You have a delicate task.  The assumption which you want him to go on making is so absurd that, if once it is questioned, even we cannot find a shred of argument in its defense.  The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment in time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels…”
      Sorry for the long quote, but this one always brings a smile to my face because it is so true.  I thought you might enjoy it too:).

      • Becky Ward

        Great quote Vicki.  The Screwtape Letters is one of my favorites.

      • http://twitter.com/bepette Bepette

        Thank you! I’ll be reading that quote a few times! :-)

    • CeciliaMarks

      Bernadette, decided I had to reply to you since you have been on my mind since I read your comments.  When my 5 children were young, I read three things that drastically changed my prayer life, possibly they will help you, too when trying to find time to pray.
      1…I read that if we prayed a daily rosary, Our Lady would give us the time we needed to complete all the tasks that were required of us. If we could find time for her, she would find time for us.  Based on that thought, I pursued praying a daily rosary for Our Lady’s intentions.  Soon I really did seem to have more time in my day.  I also, began to notice there were things I was doing that needed to be changed or removed from my schedule.
      2…Ask the Lord when He wanted me to pray.  When I asked, He seemed to indicate the period after daily Mass.  Others I know who asked were given various times that worked perfectly into their schedules.
      3…I read a book by Fr. Scanlan, “Appointment with God” Based on his suggestions, I have blocked out in my appointment book the time for daily Mass and my personal prayer time.  When there was a meeting to attend, a medical appointment, etc. and it conflicted w/the my appointment w/God, I would explain that I had a previous appointment which could not be changed. Over the years there may have been one or two times that the time of my appointment w/God changed but normally I have stayed with this time.  I don’t know if Our Lord needs me as much as I need Him but I could not get thru my day without our little talks.  This may give you a practical points to help you….

      • LizEst

        Cecilia – these are some really great suggestions.  Thank you for sharing them with everyone here.  God bless you.

      • http://twitter.com/bepette Bepette

        Yes, great suggestions. Thank you!

  • http://clinmarjo.blogspot.com/ Maryellen Jones

    I can relate to so many posts here. Becky said it takes PRACTICE to surrender all. I’ve been surrendering for many, many years, yet surrender is needed in each new situation, so  the need is always there. Like Bernadette and others here, I struggle to surrender Time. There is so much I’d rather be doing than praying. I can’t listen to the Lord because I’m always listening to my own thoughts.

    I count it a privilege to be taking this journey with all of you. Your comments inspire me to always find and move in God’s Will. God is pleased when he sees how we love and support one another. Praise Be to God.

  • novice01

    I feel so blessed in joining the book club—learning so much from each post, there is always a gem / insight that answers / explains the questions I have esp. in areas of surrender to God’s will and truly living in the life of the Spirit. Oftentimes, I have an intellectual understanding but not quite felt in my heart. I have had fleeting moments of God’s presence or closeness that I wish/pray  I could sustain throughout the day but I find myself lost in the business of daily living , it’s not till I come to the end of the day when I ask myself–“where were You  Lord that I missed you ? Or where was I ?”.  I long for the time when I can have a continuing dialogue with the Lord in all the mundane happenings in my life. I appreciate Becky’s suggestion to PRACTICE,PRACTICE, PRACTICE living in the presence of the Lord–calling Him to mind every minute and every second–having a conversation and telling Him everything I am thinking, planning, and doing in the present moment. 

    • LizEst

      novice01 – ask, seek and knock…you are definitely on your way.  Your desire is a step towards what you long for.

      “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

      • novice01

        Thank you for the encouragement and support ,LizEst. I feel this place is a very nurturing environment for someone like me who is trying to grow in friendship and intimacy with the Lord . I thank the Lord for leading me to this place in the company of souls who love the Lord . Praise God !!!  

  • LizEst

    I just read about this guy who was president of Ecuador.  Many of his personal practices of faith are what we talk about in this blog…including reading from “The Imitation of Christ.”  His rule of life is posted here:  http://hicatholicmom.blogspot.com/2013/02/catholic-president-martyr.html   

    • Vicki

      Beautiful!  Thanks, Liz!

  • Victoria Campbell

    As I just read your comments, Vicki, I am trying to surrender my fears which are approaching panic to God.  I will be leaving shortly to find out results of my biopsy.  Rationally I trust that I must trust fully in God but inside my blood pressure goes up and I feel so afraid.  I keep telling myself fear is not of God….at least by the end of the day I will have some answers and less what ifs….

    • Vicki

      My heart goes out to you, Victoria – unknowns are the most difficult thing to deal with because we feel so helpless.  I will certainly keep you in my prayers as I’m sure will everyone else on the site!  We’re all lifting you up in prayer today and and you go forward, regardless of your news.  For additional moral support, you could go back to all the comments on posts from Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence.  Hopefully you can find some comfort and there – that is a book I turn to often for strength. 

    • LizEst

      Keeping you in prayer, Victoria.

    • Scott Kallal

      You’re in my prayers Victoria. May God grant you an abundance of His Strength, His Wisdom, and His Love…

  • Victoria Campbell

    Update, yes I do have breast cancer.  My prognosis is good however exact course of treatment still to be determined.  I am blessed with faith, a gift from God, I know but also one that I credit to my parents who planted and nurtured the seed.  I also am blessed by a wonderful faith community and many friends and family and prayer warriors far and wide.  I do believe that I will grow greatly spiritually from this so in the end I do expect to ultimately gives thanks to God for all this! The hardest thing at this point is to control the panic attacks that come and go but I will keep leaning on God! Today and tomorrow, I expect to have a wonderful faith filled experience as I go to Atlanta and attend a retreat given by Immaculée Ilibagiza, author of Left to Tell.  If you have not read her book or heard her story, I cannot recommend this enough.  I heard her speak several years ago and I cannot wait to experience her faith and wisdom once again! I know I will leave stronger and more peaceful! 

    • LizEst

      Victoria – I am so saddened to learn of this difficult diagnosis for you.  But, I am also heartened by your faith response and that you have a wonderful faith community of friends and family far and wide, also that your prognosis is good.  Yes, lean on the Lord.  He loves it when we put all our faith and trust in Him, when we trust not in our own understanding but in all our ways acknowledge Him.  How beautiful it is that you are doing just that. 

      God bless you, Victoria…and have a beautiful retreat with such a wonderful witness to God’s amazing love and power.  May the Lord bless you with His peace and strength.

    • BeckitaMaria

      Thanks for this update, Victoria.  Your beautiful spirit and strong faith are an inspiration.  I feel blessed to be a part of the many prayer warriors far and wide who are praying for you and your family. 

      May Holy Spirit saturate you in Jesus’ deep and abiding PEACE as you continue on this journey of healing. 

    • Becky Ward

      Just adding my prayers to those of the others…..and sending a hug!

      God Bless You!

    • rjk123

      You have been in my prayer since your earlier message.  Thank you for updating us so we can continue to pray for you and encourage you.  The serenity of your faith as you face this challenge is inspiring.  As is your faith through the panic and fear. I believe along with you that you will grow spiritually through this and will thank Him for all the wonderful ways He blesses you and shows you His constant, unfailing love.  May He shower you with His tender peace and hold you in His arms close to His Sacred Heart. 

    • http://www.marythedefender.wordpress.com MariaGo

      Praying for you too! My grandmother’s sister had breast cancer but now she is in remission. She is woman of great joy and faith whom I admire. Your inspiring words remind me of her.
      May I suggest something? Sorry if this not spiritually-related…. We gave her a vitamin supplement called Co-enzyme Q10. And helped overcome the cancer. My Mom drank it before, and a cyst she had, shrunk considerably. I hope that this could help you too! God Bless!

    • Vicki

      Victoria – You have been and will continue to be in my prayers.  I am so saddened by your news, but feel privileged that you’ve shared your results with us – and that you’ve given us the opportunity to offer prayers and sacrifices on your behalf.  God bless you.

    • CeciliaMarks

      Victoria, you are now officially in my book of daily intercessory prayers. May God cover you in His most Precious Blood and Our Lady wrap you in her mantle….

  • BeckitaMaria

    I’ve shared I have the privilege of caring for my granddaughters several days each week.  I’m also blessed to collaborate in ministry with an aging, holy, Marian priest.  When my husband was alive, we had plans to move Father into our residence should he need care in old age, for all his family is home in China. (In 1995 I was adopted into the Wang Clan while in China and became godmother to 80 on a journey filled with miracles of needed protection.)  Man proposes; God disposes. In the passing of my husband, I began making an annual private promise as a consecrated widow and moved in residence to offer care for Father in his old age.

    Why do I share this with you? You all have been in my prayers and, truly, our prayers.  This week has been an ultra busy one so I sit here late to the commenting party, as usual, and have just completed reading all the inspiring, uplifting, thought-provoking, compel-me-to-ponder comments and I simply say again thank you to every one who is sharing and questioning.  The Presence of God in this book club surely perfumes both Heaven and earth with the odor of sanctity as the Holy Spirit is drawing each one more deeply into the mysteries of Faith in our sacramental lives, in part, because of the spiritual literature we read and the thoughts we bring to this forum.

    In Montana, the distances are far between many parishes and I drive Father to substitute for other priests.  Tomorrow we’re on the road in the morning and, again, you will be named and lifted in our prayers on and off the road. 

    God’s special blessings to All as we begin another Lenten Journey on Wednesday!  

    • Becky Ward

      Thank you BeckitaMaria!

  • http://twitter.com/karenmcd333 Karen McDonnell

    Dear Vicki,
    Until recently, I would easily have embraced what you said.
    For clarification, can you help?
    My friend’s son recently took his own life after suffering many years with depression.
    Has God willed this?  Can she be at peace trusting in that fact?
    I want to accept whatever comes but this is so hard to watch her suffer so.
    Thanks for all you do to buld His Kingdom!
    Karen

    • LizEst

      Karen – Suicide is a very, very difficult thing.  So, also, is losing a child.  God does not will bad things.  So, this suicide was not part of God’s direct will. 

      God’s will also has a permissive aspect to it in that it allows things to happen for a few reasons.  First of all, God will never violate our free will.  Our free will is one of the ways in which we most share in the image and likeness of God.  So, He will never violate that.  Secondly, God allows some things to take place in order that He might bring a greater good out of it.  (And, there may be other reasons God permits things but none of us knows the mind of God because His ways are much greater than our ways).

      That said, depression is an illness.  Just as we don’t know God’s mind, we don’t fully know the mind of another person.  Only God knows that.  Only God can read the heart.  We know that suicide is wrong.  We also know that God is rich in mercy.  And, because God fully knows the heart and mind of your friend’s son and the state of his depression, and because God is rich in mercy, we can be sure that God takes all of that into account. 

      So, God did not directly will this horrible thing to happen.  He permitted it.  I don’t believe it is helpful to tell someone who is grieving a death like this to say God willed it.  It’s just not so.  And, saying so will only make your friend hurt even more.  I would even stay away from saying that He permitted it.  She’s not going to be able to hear and understand that for a long, long time, if ever.  I believe this is a conclusion she will have to reach on her own as she asks herself “Why?” and “Why didn’t I do x, y and z?” and “Why didn’t I see this coming?” and “How could I have stopped it?” and “If only…”

      I do know a couple whose daughter took her own life.  It’s years later now.  They still mourn her as any parent would.  But, they have turned their hurt into helping others with depression and suicidal ideas.  They’ve done a lot of good.

      God bless you, Karen.  Your friend is blessed to have such a caring and faith-filled friend as yourself.  Continue to stand by her and to pray for her.

      • BeckitaMaria

        Thanks for sharing this wisdom, Liz. 

    • CeciliaMarks

      Dear Karen, I would like to add one thought to LizEst’s beautiful explanation to you.  There is a story about the Cure d’Ars who was approached by a woman in his village asking for prayers from the holy priest for her husband.  One day the husband jumped from a bridge killing himself.  The woman’s grief was great and she expressed it in anger towards the priest reproaching him for not doing enough for her husband.  In answer the priest said, “the distance is great between the bridge and the water.” 
      We do not know the extent of God’s mercy to His children. So much is beyond our understanding and comprehension, i.e., the sending of His Son to die that we might have eternal life shows the extent He will go to save His children.  The final choice is really ours; however, only God sees the human heart and I believe we must hold on to hope that the soul will ultimately chose God.  As we are “in time” and God is “out of time– always in the eternal now” — why not pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for those who commit suicide whenever one senses to do so? Could Our Lord possibly take all the prayers and the Masses offered now and in the future held in the treasury of the Church and appropriate them to save a soul? Since we do not know the answer, pray in great hope and trust in Our Lord that He loves souls more than we do and He will do everything He can to save a soul and not violate their free will……

      • LizEst

        Beautiful story Cecilia.  God bless you.

      • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

        You are so right, Cecilia.  Jesus explained to Saint Faustina to what great lengths God goes to save a dying Soul. In Diary Nos.1485 and 1486, He gives us the Conversations of the Merciful God with : 85, a Sinful Soul and 86, with a Despairing Soul.  Jesus tells us that God never stops pleading with the Soul to turn to Him at that Final Moment.  He reveals to the Soul – and the Soul realizes – that, that is definitely the very last chance it has for salvation and all what the Soul needs to do is respond to God’s Final Grace.  When the Soul accepts this Grace and turns to God, He immediately accomplishes the rest.  Jesus tells us that when the Soul does respond to God’s Final Grace, all its sins and punishment are forgiven and God assumes the Soul unto Himself.

        So the advice the Priest gave to the desolate woman was very correct.

    • Vicki

      Dear Karen,
      What a horrible tragedy! I’m so sorry for your friend’s loss, and for yours as well.  Liz and Cecilia have hopefully answered your question.  I think in a difficult situation, the notion of God’s will is something – as Liz mentioned – that we need to come to terms with on our own.  Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence is a wonderful little book that we read in this book club a couple of months ago.  That book has answered your question for me many times – my copy is actually falling apart.  If you look back on the site, reading some of those quotes and people’s comments may help you to understand the difference between God’s active will vs. His passive will.  It is a very short book – reading it may help you to understand the concept; but I don’t know that I would give your friend a copy yet.  She may not be ready for it for quite some time.  I will certainly keep you and your friend in my prayers.  In Christ, Vicki

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    Oh, I come so late on this Post to-day after a hectic week of planning our Divine Mercy Outreach Apostolate and attending a day-long Training of Trainers Day on Saturday.  But to all those who are struggling with various illnesses, worrying family situations and everything else in between, Prayers are guaranteed for them from this “Family”

  • Victoria Campbell

    Finally getting my mind fixed on Book Club and the thought  of surrendering. Yes, Vicki when faced with something like a life threatening illness it is humbling and clearly time to surrender to God.  I trust that my life ultimately belongs to him and I am resigned to his will for me throughout this breast cancer and treatment.  At times that resignation brings a deep sense of strength and peace but at other times the anxiety of it all just bubbles up and it is so hard to stay in a peaceful state.  I do find it easier for me to put my life own life in God’s hands but in times past when I felt the responsibility as with caring for my children’s issues less able to resign in complete trust.  I always felt called to figure this or that out and think during those times of trial taking care of others less able to remember that God should be the one leading me.  It is all too often we wait until there is a complete crisis death (my mothers), a mentally ill adult child, or now my own cancer when I am able to make that complete and total surrender.  Maybe the 3rd time will be the charm and this will be a gateway to more surrender in other things….

    As I reread the chapter looking for additional comment, I find my attention directed toward the 38th chapter where the voice of Christ prompts one to remember how Moses sought answers in everything from God in the tabernacle. This quote, ” So you should also take refuge in the secret chamber of your heart begging earnestly for divine aid.”  After my weekend with Immaculee at her retreat and hearing her once again recant the terror of waiting to die during the Rwandan genocide and hearing her words and how she so earnestly prayed for God to save her from what must have been a hopeless situation I am reminded that our God is almighty he can do anything and he alone can be our refuge in times of trouble. Learning and emulating the true heartfelt prayer that sustained her and has made her a beacon for faith for many is my goal.  When I am afraid, I am resolve to pour out my heart to God trusting that peace and strength will come from he who is almighty. 

    • Vicki

      Victoria, I applaud you for your strength and perseverance!  I think surrender is a lifetime struggle – I don’t know that it will ever be easy – but I just try to remind myself that we’re being trained to be “fit” for His kingdom, as I read once in The King of the Golden City.  

      I’ve read Immaculee’s first book, and would love to hear her in person. What a privilege for you!  – Still praying :)…

    • rjk123

      Just to let you know that I continue to keep you in my prayers.  Rachel