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Book Club – Journal of a Soul (Week 5 of 12)

October 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Journal of a Soul Week 5

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The Sorrows of Motherhood

During this retreat, the Lord has been pleased to show me yet again all the importance for me, and for the success of my priestly ministry, of the spirit of sacrifice, which I desire shall from now on ever more inspire my conduct ‘as a servant and prisoner of Jesus Christ.’ And also I want all the undertakings in which I shall take part during this present year to be done in this spirit, in so far as I have a share in them; all are to be done for the Lord and in the Lord: plenty of enthusiasm but no anxiety about their greater success. I will do them as if everything depended on me but as if I myself counted for nothing, without the slightest attachment to them, ready to destroy or abandon them at a sign from those to whom I owe obedience.

O blessed Jesus, what I am proposing to do is hard and I feel weak, because I am full of self-love, but the will is there and comes from my heart. Help me! Help me!

The keen sense of my own nothingness must ripen and perfect in me the spirit of kindness, great kindness, making me patient and forbearing with others in the way I judge and treat them. Although I am only just thirty years old, I begin to feel some wear and tear of the nerves. This will not do. When I feel irritable I must think of my own worthlessness and of my duty to understand and sympathize with everyone, without passing harsh judgments. This will help me to keep calm. 

The work I am doing now requires great delicacy and prudence as it frequently means dealing with women. I intend therefore that my behavior shall always be kind, modest and dignified so as to divert attention from my own person and give a richer spiritual quality to my work. Past experience is an encouragement for the future. Here again, if I think poorly of myself and distrust my own powers and raise my thoughts constantly to Jesus, returning to his embrace as soon as I have ended my task, it will be a great protection. It would be dangerous if in this work I were to presume on my own powers for a single moment. – Journal of a Soul, pg. 179-180

Whether or not we are biological parents, we are all spiritual parents. So please bear with me as I discuss motherhood – not in the universal sense, but in a very personal way.

These days our sanctuary feels more like a battleground. At this moment, one of my children is cleaning our vehicle inside and out before he can come back in the house and another had to leave the dinner table (without having eaten dinner). Somehow, the teen and tween years have hit us like a ton of bricks and we’ve been caught completely off-guard.

As I read the excerpt above, I felt strongly that if I changed PRIEST to MOTHER and THIRTY YEARS OLD to _______ YEARS OLD, I could have been reading about my own vocation.  Allow me to walk you through the passage.

The Lord has been pleased to show me yet again all the importance for me, and for the success of my [motherly] ministry, of the spirit of sacrifice, which I desire shall from now on ever more inspire my conduct ‘as a servant and prisoner of Jesus Christ.’ The joys of motherhood are often discussed. But the difficulties, not so much.  I never thought I’d say this, but motherhood is actually a cross. Despite all its joys, there is a very painful aspect to my vocation. Whether I'm concerned about a child's character, sufferings, future decisions, safety or any number of other issues, my heart can become overwhelmed with a love that is so powerful it would be better expressed as excruciating sorrow.  At times, the responsibility is too daunting to comprehend.

Until recently, I never paid much attention to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, but I've been reading about them lately.  Mary was such a powerful example of Paul's instruction in Romans 12:1, “…Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  As I've heard Kimberly Hahn say several times: “Each day I must crawl back up on that altar.” It’s can be a challenge, but I must continue to persevere in faith.

And also…all the undertakings…are to be done for the Lord and in the Lord: plenty of enthusiasm but no anxiety about their greater success. I will do them as if everything depended on me but as if I myself counted for nothing… This is the greatest challenge of all. I know of many parents who have done their best to raise their children to become saints, praying and sacrificing daily for them; but their children still left the Faith, lived in sin, and tormented their parents with their decisions. This is a difficult one for me. I realize I’ve learned to trust God with everything but the salvation of my children. Shame on me! I must let go of my own pride and know that whatever happens, He is a God who answers prayer, and He will lead them to His home in the end.

O blessed Jesus, what I am proposing to do is HARD and I feel WEAK, because I am full of self-love, but the will is there and comes from the heart. Help me! Help me! I can only carry on from day to day by the sheer grace of God, because when I presume to act on my own, it is disastrous, as noted by Pope John XXIII.

I’d like to say that the keen sense of my own nothingness [has ripened] and [perfected] in me the spirit of kindness, great kindness, making me patient and forbearing with others in the way I judge and treat them, but I think it has only made me question everything I do as a mother. Like many parents, my husband and I have some children who, although they are certainly not perfect, tend to be kind, gentle, patient, compassionate, diligent and full of faith. And we have others who, while good at heart, insist on rocking the boat at every turn. Because of the friction, I’ve taken to questioning myself on a daily basis. Have I not been kind enough? Strict enough? Loving enough? Available enough? Am I too matter-of-fact? Or too wishy-washy? Am I too harsh? Or too meek? Sadly, while I often turn to my Lord in desperation, I've realized that in the midst of trial I must lean too hard on my own understanding. Why else would I be so unsure of myself?

The work I am doing now requires great delicacy and prudence as it frequently means dealing with [children]. I intend therefore that my behavior shall always be kind, modest and dignified so as to divert attention from my own person and give a richer spiritual quality to my work. Recently I read the biography of Saint Monica. (Interestingly enough, I read her biography several years ago, but never identified with the anguish she must have felt until now.) Reading her biography gives me hope.  Unfortunately, I am not a living saint.  When dealing with my children, too often kindness and dignity go out the window. When everyone needs mom and the chores all need to be done, patience is the virtue most desired, and I must admit it is sometimes wanting now that I have a teen on one end and a toddler on the other.

Here again, if I think poorly of myself and distrust my own powers and raise my thoughts constantly to Jesus, returning to his embrace as soon as I have ended my task, it will be a great protection. When my oldest was five years old, I remember sobbing through a rosary, begging Mary to lead my children to her Son in spite of me. Being aware of my lack of power has never been problem. But these days I find myself on my knees more often than not. And of course, this is where I should be. My failings aside, I am well aware that it is by God’s grace alone that my children will grow to know, love and serve Him, and it is my daily prayer that, like Saint Joseph, one day (in the far distant future) they will each die in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Despite any difficulties, what has inspired you in your vocation?  Are there special prayers, devotions or sacrifices that have brought about great progress in your spiritual development or in that of someone you love?

2. Open forum – comment on any of the reading for this past week.

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 6: 1915 – End of 1934  (pg. 190-223)

Happy Reading!

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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

 

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen 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 SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • Cecilia

    Oh Vicki, do I feel your angst at this time in your life! Yes, trying to raise children to be saints in this world to only have “the seed fall between the cracks or in the thorn bushes”. How many times I would look at other families and only see how “perfect” they were. If I had done more of this or more of that. Why did my children not hear what we were trying to teach them. We, as parents, may have learned more than what we tried to pass on to our children. In retrospect, the power of good example, faithfulness to the Gospel & to be open to God’s constant promptings seems to have been what kept us going.
    Today my husband & I celebrate 41 years of marriage & I must say we have grown spiritually and learned much about God’s love for His children as we have learned to love & respect our children more. Our adult children are in their 30’s and are either married or in the process of getting married. They still struggle as do we thru those hills and valleys of this incredible journey. We still have those “heart piercings” and have learned to accept that we are not “perfect” but that God’s love for each of us is so very powerful He will keep them on track and pull them back when they stray as He did for us. You are in my prayers….

    • Vicki

      Congratulations on your anniversary!! Thanks so much for your encouragement. I can’t tell you how helpful is to hear from someone on the other side of this valley:-). I’m sure we’ll get through it, but it’s definitely been a roller coaster ride lately.

  • Vicki

    Did I scare everyone away today:)?

  • Cecilia

    I actually sent a very long message to you…guess its floating in cyberspace. If it doesn’t come in, I will try to re-write it …

    • Vicki

      Have not seen this – couldn’t find your email or I would have sent this privately:-). Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness, though!

  • LizEst

    No, Vicki. I think folks are just busy. I’ve noticed, in the past few weeks, that people seem to be commenting more on the following day. So, hang in there…and, God bless you!

  • MelissaStacy

    You didn’t scare me away (although I’m not part of the Book Club)! Thank you for sharing this passage from “Journal of a Soul.” This helped encourage me to focus on God and not myself. Vicki, I think you are probably light years ahead of many people in their spiritual journey, which is both a blessing and a challenge. A challenge because you are trying to move closer to God and often realize your imperfections. But we’re all imperfect. Motherhood is very hard, and we can do everything “right”, but we can’t save our children. Only God’s grace can do that. We can certainly love them uncondiionally, though, with God’s help, of course, in all their goodness and all their shortcomings. If I start comparing myself with what other families are mothers are like, it leads to feelings of desolaton. I’m in the trenches, the beautiful, mucky, messiness of real life, full of light and dark. I think that is perhaps where God would have us all be. If things were easy or came too easy, we might forget to depend on Him. I don’t know you but think are a good mother because of all that you share that is in your heart. I wish you courage, patience, and joy!!

  • AnnieB

    Hi, are email notifications working or have I been dropped off the list. I haven’t had one for some days from RCSD. Just a thought re lack of comments.

    • For some reason you were unsubscribed. I have resubscribed you.

  • LizEst

    1. What has inspired me has been sacred Scripture, how the Old Testament is found in the New, and the New pre-figured in the Old, how this is all reflected in the treasury that is our Catholic Church: the Mass, sacraments, formal prayer, devotions, the rosary, private prayer, meditation, Church teaching, etc. In these are found endless riches for my daily life, wherever the Lord leads, and solid teaching of the Truth of Jesus Christ. The Liturgy of the Hours, in particular, has been a tremendous blessing for me. Contained within it is all of life from birth to death, from children to elders, friendship to betrayal. I also find inspiration in the lives of the Saints.

    2. I loved when, in 1912 (p.179), he comments that all things must be done “for the Lord and in the Lord: plenty of enthusiasm but no anxiety about their greater or less success. I will do them as if everything depended on me but as if I myself counted for nothing, without the slightest attachment to them, ready to destroy or abandon them at a sign from those to whom I owe obedience.” This, I believe, is one of the keys to detachment…and something I wish I would have learned long ago. It would have saved me much heartache. This detachment is what keeps us totally focused on God. Be a promoter of the good…but be willing to cede to legitimate higher authority, leaving all to God’s good designs and His holy will. Of course, there are things in life we must not compromise on. And, in that, we must become steeped in God’s word and Church teaching, in order that we will have wisdom and informed consciences to know what is good and right and just and be prepared to witness to such, giving even our lives for Truth. Much detachment comes from letting go of our egos and letting God rule our lives.

    • Vicki

      This is certainly true. Ego comes in play too often. It is no surprise to me that pride is the vice Pope John XXIII mentions most often. “Self” is so difficult to manage – especially from that perspective.

  • $1650412

    I don’t think I could add a thing to what you have said and give us so beautifully here. Love Jesus, love Jesus, love Jesus, love your husband, love your children- let God refine and purify all those loves– be merciful, pray fervently, trust the Lover of your soul. Humility is a gift, beg for it! and when it comes, (in spades!) which it does for every devout and beloved soul in the Lord- hold it tightly to your heart and love Jesus all the more!

    • LizEst

      Beautiful Jo! God bless you.

    • Vicki

      Thank you so much for your inspiring words. Pax Christi.

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