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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Book Club – Journal of a Soul (Week 10 of 12)

November 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Never, Never, Never Give Up!

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Journal of a Soul Week 10

Beloved brothers and children, concerning this subject of the rosary of Mary, we could find in our heart other devout considerations of moving and persuasive power, presenting it as a world-wide supplication for the peace of the Lord and for the happiness of men and peoples even in this world. But we choose to offer for your attention, as the complement of this apostolic letter, a short sequence of devout considerations, arranged for every decade of the rosary, with reference to the three-fold emphasis – mystery, reflection and intention – which we have mentioned above.

These simple notes, which come from our heart, may be found useful to many who are particularly desirous to overcome the monotony of mere recitation: they are useful and timely thoughts for the heightening of personal piety and for giving more fervour to our prayer for the salvation and peace of all men. – Journal of a Soul, p. 362

Are you as moved as I that Blessed Pope John XXIII’s spiritual journey led him HERE, of all places? Who remembers all the frustration regarding his lack of devotion and attention when he prayed the rosary?

In case you have a hard time remembering back sixty-three years, allow me to jog your memory:

July 21, 1898

Today again I let my thoughts wander a great deal during the rosary. At this rate I shall certainly not please Mary, and what then?

 

July 22, 1898

Is it really impossible for me to keep my thoughts from wandering during the rosary? We shall see again tomorrow…

 

July 24, 1898

Generally speaking, it is true that I have yet to do even one thing really well, for example, a devout recitation of the holy rosary, etc…

 

Note to Self: Frustration should not be an impediment to seeking holiness.

According to Thomas à Kempis, there are two kinds of knowledge: Knowledge of the mind, which is sterile, and knowledge of the heart, which is warm and nourishing. Knowledge of the heart is that which results in transformation. It strikes me that in the beginning Pope John XXIII knew what he was supposed to do, and was faithful in doing it. But he also knew that his heart wasn’t where he wanted it to be. In fact, he often felt frustrated with himself for going through the motions.

Pope John XXIII has left us with a precious gift by sharing something that would be nearly impossible to teach. Over the course of many years, he shared the arduous and sometimes almost imperceptible transformation of his very soul.

This journal has had a profound effect on me precisely because my own transformation (or lack thereof) is a constant point of frustration. I came into the Church driven completely by an intellectual conversion. As a reader, I was moved through several books by the arguments for the truth found in the Catholic church. Call that STEP ONE of my conversion. Eighteen years have gone by, and I often feel that I am still at STEP ONE. My head is with Christ. My body is with Christ. I try to follow the rules. I am deeply convicted by the Truth. However, to this day my mind wanders as I pray the rosary. My mind wanders during mass. My mind wanders during my morning prayer time. I fall out in and out of a pious lifestyle.

Nevertheless…there’s hope for me!

As a society full of “self-esteem”, we don’t tend to focus on our weaknesses. Yet even in the physical realm, focusing on our weaknesses can pay off big, provided we work on improving them, rather than using them as a battering ram for beating ourselves silly.

Having lived in Chicago from 1995-2003, I became quite a Michael Jordan fan, watching as he led the Bulls to three consecutive national championships, after returning from retirement. What I admired most about Jordan was his penchant for focusing on his weaknesses, in effort to eliminate them. He worked five hours per day five days per week in the off-season, particularly in effort to improve his weaknesses. The result? He became the best basketball player of all time.

Pope John XXIII focused his weaknesses as well. The weaknesses in his spiritual life. He constantly listed his failings, begging our Lord to forgive them and give him the strength to persevere. His laser focus on those weaknesses was key to his success. He never faltered in attempting to correct them little by little. Holy Mother Church so recognizes the value of such a focus that she greatly encourages it and even gives it a name: Examination of Conscience…genius.

Don’t I want to eliminate my weaknesses? The bible says, “Be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). I can only eliminate my weaknesses, not by ignoring them, but by paying particular attention to them – performing an examination of conscience daily or even two or three times daily, if necessary.  Of course, I can only become what I am supposed to be through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Clearly, Pope John XXIII realized this. But when most of us would have put down the pen, and given up the journey, he stepped up his efforts. I find a quote by Michael Jordan apropos in this respect:

“Failure is acceptable. but not trying is a whole different ball park.”

This is true. Pope John XXIII failed over and over and over again. But he never gave up. I need to try, fail, and try again. I cannot ever quit. Day in and day out I need to turn to my Lord for mercy and grace, as did Pope John XXIII. Like him, I must have confidence that God’s grace will see me through to the end.

Note to self: Perseverance is key in seeking holiness.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it was Saint Dominic Savio who said “Anyone can be a saint. He only has to will it.” Clearly, Blessed Pope John XXIII willed it. This journal is a testament to – not years, but – decades of unwavering effort to that effect.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. What is the greatest thing you've learned from this journal?  How will you manifest that teaching in your own life?

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

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 11: Some Prayers – End of Appendix I (p.377-416)

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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  • Robert Kraus

    I’m with you, the greatest thing I learned is perseverance. If a holy Pope could struggle with his prayer life, then there’s hope for me yet. 🙂

    • Amen

    • Vicki

      As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The saints are sinners who keep on trying.”

    • LizEst

      As Our Lord said, “The one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Let us pray we will all be able to proclaim with St. Paul, “I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7bc).

      God bless you, Robert!

  • trudy morris

    St. Thomas Acquinas ” As a child, Thomas dreamed simply of becoming a Dominican one day and living the demands of its lifestyle. He believed in his dream and in his capacity to fulfill it. One day, in response to his sister’s query on what to do to become a saint, Thomas replied: Velle! (Will it!)” info from this site
    http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/261676/following-foot-trails-a-saint#.UKOxohB5mK1

    • Vicki

      Thank you!  I couldn’t find the reference this week, but I memorized that quote a long time ago, and for some reason, Dominic Savio just kept coming back to my mind.   

  • AnnieB

    Hi vicki, I can so relate to you following by head and not heart.
    I took this very problem to reconciliation and confessed that whilst I was faithful, I was not loving and certainly did not love the Lord my God with all my mind, all my heart and all my soul. Within 6 months I was in floods of tears as I realised just how loved I am and equally just how much I loved our lord and saviour. What was the transformation? Letting the Holy Spirit transform me and to stop trying to do it by myself. Learning to be and not do.

    I have loved reading this book to see the interior trasformation. It is a true gift to us.

    • Vicki

      Annie – I’ve had moments of conversion like that too.  Sadly, they last only a while before they fade away and I’m back to an intellectual relationship with Christ.  But when those moments do come, they are such an amazing blessing!  What peace!

  • CeciliaMarks

    Vicki, my favorite quote comes from Mother Teresa, “God doesn’t call us to succeed but to be faithful.” Pope John and all the saints appear to have this as their goal. To faithfully stay on track as we struggle with our daily call

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