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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

To Rejoice in the Truth

February 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Anthony Lilles, Catholic Spirituality, Love, Prayer

In prayer, the Father speaks His Word to us. This is the Word whispered deep into our humble poverty so that in our frailty we might know a love that surpasses every hope. This eternal Utterance tenderly resounds in humanity's for post to rejoice in the Truthdeepest needs and sorrows to disclose that ancient hidden joy which bubbles through all that is. Prayer rejoices in this truth.

At the same time, through tears of compunction, this Sword of Truth relentlessly attacks and shatters the crystalline myths whose momentary enchantments ensnare us. In silence and faith, this same boundless Fount of Mercy erupts deep in the heart to give birth to the most wonderful freedom. Through persevering vigilance, this very Light dispels all manner of falsehood while offering a vision that knows reasons beyond the power of sin and death that unaided human reason cannot know.

Those who pray with humble desire for God rejoice in this Truth, and their jubilation explodes into works of such tender sacrifice for others that there is no plausible explanation for them within the narrow confines of this mortal existence. No heartless calculation and no servile fear suffice to explain their gentle kindness or quiet patience. If ever frustrated they are enveloped in peace – even if it is not felt. If ever exasperated they are established in stillness – even when everything is falling apart around them. By what they receive in prayer, they shine with warmth in the cold darkness as a sign of contradiction: their courage speaks to a new life too sublime for this life to contain, too wonderful for this world to know, too powerful for even death or another evil to overcome.

The most sincere authenticity compels them to bear all kinds of hardship and difficulty to comfort the misery of their neighbor. Prayer causes them to see not only strangers and even enemies as their neighbor, but also their spouses and children and parents and co-workers — everyone in their lives is someone God has entrusted to them and their hearts are weighed with sorrow that anyone should be anonymous to them. In fact, no matter how much they love their neighbor, they feel more indebted to their neighbor than their neighbor feels indebted to them because they see in their neighbor an icon of God, an image of the Truth that ravishes their souls.

If they are humiliated, rejected and suffer all manner of sorrow for their kindness, such souls would not have it any other way – for these people of prayer cannot stop themselves from rejoicing with awe-filled wonder before the dynamic mystery to which they must respond. The only way they can respond is love, for no matter how much they love, their hearts are only the more wounded by this indescribable realization of just how much more He has loved them.

Note from Dan: Anthony's fantastic book on prayer, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, can be found HERE in print, and HERE in Kindle format.

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Art for this post To Rejoice in the Truth: Saint Augustine, Philippe de Champaigne, between circa 1645 and circa 1650, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology, St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor at Juan Diego House, House of Formation for Seminarians. For over twenty years, Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry, as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years and Associate Professor of Theology. He is a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students, and contemplatives about the spiritual life. He collaborated with Dan Burke on the books "30 Days with Teresa of Avila" and "Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux". And, his book "Fire from Above" was published in 2016. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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  • judeen

    LOVE COMPLETE , here we are in a daily moment .. asking our selves what love is…. God busts forth to love the unloveable, to take time to crush the lies of what we know.. to see beyond- oh..he is just naughty or lazy or doesnt care..-. to see the truth…. of woundedness and need of someone just to care and love them… to stop the judgement of others and teach them to respect and work on their own virtues instead of condeming or snobing… we see this in every day life all over the place… and then there is God touching our hearts to reach out.. to go beyond what we think we know to touch hearts and use us to help heal others by expecting respect , stopping the lies and careing…
     or maybe it is us.. who needs to stop lieing to our selves.. the storys we hold on to … to keep the wounded ness going.. to keep our selves saying it only happened to us and noone else knows what it is like.. or we hadno part in it… stop the pain… the search in our hearts to see the truth.. who we really are..so we can heal. we can become better , and closer to God … oh how it hurts to see the truth.. and what we have to admit to our selves who we really are and have to admit the truth to our selves. and try to change , forgive, to love,    each moment given to us is for us.. to learn how to act, respond, to over come, to love, to humble our selves and grow in Holyness.. and it is not about how the other person did or acted… life sure takes on another meaning

    • Anthony_Lilles

      Thank you for this meditation.  There is a beautiful humility in your words.

  • KAACD

    I don’t entirely understand this reading. Is this saying the wonder of prayer then the effect of prayer on those who pray? Is our “poverty” the lack of spirituality? Is “they” the person who pray’s and see’s with love for others? They cannot see judgement of others? Thanks

    • KAACD – Yes, this is showing the joy of prayer in an intimate relationship with God and how we are transformed through this prayer. Our “poverty” is our realization that of ourselves we are nothing and have nothing. That every good thing of who we are and what we do is a grace and gift from God. We realize that we come before Him with empty hands. It is not a bad poverty. It is as we enter more deeply into realizing our own poverty (and because God is so merciful He usually allows us to see this slowly, a little at a time) we are able to appreciate more of God’s goodness and love and mercy because we see Him more and more as the Author of any goodness within us.
      Does that help?

      • LizEst

        Beautiful explanation. God bless you, Amanda.

      • Anthony_Lilles

        Thank you for this — I think you are right, it is not in itself “bad” poverty because the only Begotten Son of God chose this poverty for Himself when He assumed our nature.  God has made our poverty, weakness and inadequacy into a kind of canvas or icon board on which His glory is revealed.  It is in our weakness that we become living icons of the Lord’s presence in the world – drawing all souls to Him.

  • LizEst

    Beautiful!

    I especially liked “Prayer causes them to see not only strangers and even enemies as their neighbor, but also their spouses and children and parents and co-workers – everyone in their lives is someone God has entrusted to them and their hearts are weighed with sorrow that anyone should be anonymous to them.”

    That is one of the greatest challenges to putting our faith into action. It is easy to love the stranger and even the enemy. We don’t live with them (well, some do). What can be much more difficult is living in community, which of course includes the family, our work environment and our parish family, too.

    The community we live in and with is what we rub up against every day. It is there that God uses other people to help polish us, and form us on the potters wheel, to sharpen our virtues with other instruments known as sinners and saints!

    It has to be this way because, besides being everywhere, God lives peacefully and lovingly in community with us, living deep within our “interior castle.” Where He is, there also will His servant be. That is the example He has given us. We must do the same for others.

    • Anthony_Lilles

      I love these insights — thank you!

  • MaryofSharon

    What an beautiful and poetic description of the fruit of the transforming union with God attained by those who reach spiritual maturity, freed from detachments and thus freed to fully surrender to His inspiration! I’m looking forward to reading more from Dr. Lilles.I have to wonder if there are many people alive today that even begin to live like this.  Yes, I know we can look to saints as examples as we read their biographies and we peer into their hearts by reading their writings.  But can regular people like us actually begin to find ourselves unable to resist the movement of Divine Life within in us in how we are growing in the ability to love?  Can we actually hope to move beyond straining with gritted teeth to push ourselves beyond our selfishness and annoyances to a natural spontaneity that cannot resist serving as a conduit of the very love of God?   It’s one thing to enjoy a sweet communion with God in frequent and generous times of meditation and silent Adoration.  It’s quite another to  be able to empty oneself enough to allow that communion to bear the kind of fruit Dr. Lilles describes in one’s daily life.  I, for one, am far, far from that kind of transformation. Can some of you tell us, has consistent and deep prayer led to at least glimmers kind of transformation in you?

    • Becky Ward

      Yes Mary it is possible. Jesus would not have told us to “…be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” (MT 5:48), if it was not possible. This is one of the things I find so sad about our time…….there is a mistaken impression that saints are to be role models…..something to strive for…..but we don’t really believe or expect that we can be saints – even here on earth – too!!

      It is only possible because God intervenes to help us when we trust that He will do so! We really must cut ourselves off (detach) from worldly things and ways of thinking/behaving, and then focus on the gospel and our faith…everything that is true, good, and beautiful.

      A local priest suggested that one good way to begin this relationship is to say throughout the day, “Jesus within me, I love you!”…he also suggested that we might give Him a little kiss. <3

    • Mary – to echo what Becky says, there are very many alive who live like this. They usually have spiritual directors, and pursue a life of holiness with great diligence. If your hearts is inclined, there is a way for you.

      • Becky Ward

        Good Job Dan! I was thinking belatedly that I sould have mentioned the saints who teach us that we are brought to holiness THROUGH others. This is the way God set it up!

    • Anthony_Lilles

      Dear Mary –
      Dan and Becky have offered some sound advice and solid wisdom which I hope you will find helpful.  I am like you, a repentant sinner who God patiently draws to Himself and who on occasion knows some tears of compunction. He is so merciful to me that, when I let Him, He always astonishes me over how much more His love exceeds my failures and shortcomings.  Whenever He discloses this, we always find a little more courage to humble ourselves again – He has humbled Himself so much more for our sake.  Silent prayer, study of the faith, Mass and frequent Confession – these are some of the practices that give God space in my daily life so that I may welcome the hidden power of this great love into the new events and circumstances and friendships with which He entrusts me — even when these are sometimes exceedingly difficult or surprising. And with this power, though I fail countless times, He can accomplish His great work in me and you, and in those He has given to us.  We share this great hope with one another by faith. 
      In Christ,
      Anthony 

    • $1650412

      Mary, I feel exactly the same way you express here. But I can honestly say, like Mary42, it doesn’t really agitate me or disappoint me overmuch- because I can appreciate this sanctity in other souls and give glory to God and I am learning to accept, but not capitulate to- my own limitations and to become more focussed on Jesus (this is really slow in coming.) I think it is more than prayer- us praying effectively, whatever that means- that transforms the soul. Although this is hard to explain- I think it is grace, and humility and I think it comes more from God, not so much something we generate as a response ourselves to Him even, or not at least without a significant amount of help from the Holy Spirit. I think if you can read this post and feel your heart hunger for this love for God, this union with the fire of Divine love, then you are on your way through the process by which it is accomplished. (At least I believe that by faith- ) But, you know, the pitfalls in the interior are the same it seems as in everything else- do I prefer my ‘norm’ or the ‘known’ I am acquainted with because I have some sense of security in it, to a potential unknown depth of abandonment to Christ? At least I run into that regularly in my life.

      • LizEst

        Yes, Jo, Christ calls us to put out into the deep. We need to trust Him enough to go there knowing that He always goes before us. When we are yoked to Him for whom nothing is impossible, we can do whatever He asks of us.

        God bless you Jo…and Happy Lord’s Day!

  • Prayer brings us to truth when we are sincere. It leads us to gratitude recognition of our weaknesses but rejoicing we don’t have to handle it ourselves Gods love is everlasting continuous and when we engage in his Eucharistic love we can not help in an everlasting continuous love for God for his children and all creation.

  • Becky Ward

    Thank you….this is awesome! I am especially drawn to this part –

    “If ever frustrated they are enveloped in peace – even if it is not felt. If ever exasperated they are established in stillness – even when everything is falling apart around them.”

    This seems to describe much of my life right now, and I am often reminded of St. Teresa of Avila’s analogy of being on the bottom of the ocean where there is peace….even while mightily storms blow on the surface. God is good.

    • I think He has been teaching me that quote as well! I did not think it was possible! I am just in awe of His great goodness and mercy when He bestows such peace! How truly good He is! When we trust Him, WOW!

  • This is a beautiful piece! It speaks so many truths! I only hope we could all live this way.

  • Ramanie

    Dear Anthony,
    Thank you very much for this great article. God Bless you.

  • A good Post though it is a little bit over my head. Too intellectual and somewhat very deep Theologycally . But reading your Responses, I begin to get the threat of what is being said here.  So I go back to the  2nd Reading of Sunday the 3rd.  That I can comprehend alright.  And, yes, there are people who have been so blessed to attain this high degree of Holiness. Others, like this old gal, are still struggling daily to live the Teachings of St. Paul to the Corinthians I have mentioned.  The going is tough, but giving up is out of the question.  Why???? because I believe along the way, God will help me to attain the level of Spirituality for which He created me.  All He needs from me is to co-operate with Him even when I am in a thick fog.  And I am still begging Him to give me a Spiritual Director who can work with me at my simple, uncomplicated pace.

    • You are in good company, @Mary_42:disqus 
      This beautiful post is over my head also. That is, I can grasp the beauty, but I’ve never been in that place. It reads like something from a soul in another century. How encouraging to know that this level of Spiritually can be reached even in our present day, but I suspect only with spiritual direction, which is out of the question for me.
      Perhaps if I read Dr. Lillies post over enough times, some of his spirit would rub off on me. I’d love that.

  • Re-reading this Post slowly, I hear Anthony Lilles describing Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska – Jesus Christ’s Secretary and Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy.  

    Her love for God and mankind knew no bounds.  The more she suffered, was humiliated, ridiculed, tormented and misunderstood by those around her and  the sheer agony of the painful Tuberculosis she suffered from silently until she died at a young age of 33, her spontaneous response to everything, was to offer all to Jesus with such joy in her heart that He had found her worthy to share a little, oh so little of His Passion.  He conversations with Jesus are so moving to read in her Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul.

  • I think this type of love, this holiness, is possible for “ordinary” people because God’s love and mercy is so great. Even our feeble efforts are rewarded much beyond what we would say is their “value.” If we are generous with Him, He is much more generous with us. And He understands our state of life.

    It is my hope that God will lead me to be able to love as He loves. The Bible says that we should be perfect as He is, so there must be a great hope for us!
    I think that to say that holiness is not possible without a spiritual director is short-changing God’s ability to work in us. It is easier, safer, and probably a straighter path – but we are so blessed today with books, online resources, EWTN, etc that we are not left completely stranded.

    Yes! Seek spiritual direction. But for some that have no local resources – don’t give up hope for holiness!

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