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For Love of My Soul – Book Club

November 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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An Introduction to the Devout Life (Week 3 of 14)

Consider that then the world is at an end, so far as regards you; there is none any more for you. Everything will then be reversed, all pleasures, vanities, worldly joys, and vain attachments will then appear as mere phantoms and vapors. Woe is me, for what delusive trifles have I offended my God! Then will you discover that you have forsaken God for nothing! On the other hand, how beautiful and desirable will good works and devotion then appear; why have you not followed on that holy and blessed road? Truly at that hour sins which before seemed as trifles will wax great as mountains, and how faint, how weak, will your devotion then appear! – An Introduction to the Devout Life (Part I: Chapter 13, paragraph 2)

For Love of My Soul

Appropriately during the month dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, the readings this past Sunday spoke directly to the notion of eternity.  Our priest took the opportunity to ask how often we think about eternity. With a twinkle in his eye, but with the weight of truth in his voice, he accused many of us of being like the Sadducees, who did not believe in the Resurrection, and therefore, were “Sad U See?”  Knowing we were a bit taken aback, he explained that, while as Christians we may claim to believe in eternity, we often live our lives as though this were IT. As though there were no Resurrection!  We seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain, as we concern ourselves with work, school, bills and entertainment, rarely keeping heaven in the forefront of our minds.  In effect, he asserted, many Christians live as “practical” atheists.

His reflections gave me pause.  Do I live my life as if there were no heaven?  I must admit that often, while eternity is in the back of my mind, it is easily forgotten in the passion of any particular moment (where its presence is most important).  What a grave error!  As a Christian, my every thought, word and action should begin and end with eternity in mind. Unfortunately, this concept seems to have been much easier for the Saints than it is for me.

The Saints kept eternity at the forefront at all times, and this perspective allowed them to have great courage and perseverance despite severe trials.  They sought to preserve their souls above all else, and they could not be too careful when it came to their salvation.  For me (brief moments of lucidity notwithstanding), the notion of things eternal seems rather ethereal – an intangible and vague possibility as I sit amidst the joys and sufferings of this world. How can I bring that proper perspective to the forefront, placing heaven and the salvation of my soul above all?

Mother Mary Loyola, in her book, First Communion, offers an illustration for me to contemplate:

Supposing the story to be true, that Queen Elizabeth on coming to the throne of England, said, “Give me forty years of glory, and I care not what follows,” how would those words have come back to her when her forty years of earthly glory came to a close, and her soul was going to its account!  …On the other hand, what did all their torments matter to the martyrs she so cruelly put to death, once they were over?  They lasted some of them many years, for the prisons of England at that period – to say nothing of the tortures there inflicted – were worse than death.  But what are fifty or a hundred years compared to Eternity?  For more than three hundred years these blessed martyrs have been enjoying all the delights of Heaven, and their happiness will last as long as God shall be God.  If He were to require of us all He required of them, it would be very little – it would be nothing compared to the reward.  But He does not ask this.  He only bids us avoid sin, keep His Commandments, and bear patiently the troubles He sends us for our good.  Oh, how glad we shall be when we come to die if we have done this, if we have served Him faithfully! – p. 13-14

But what about those little moments every day when I choose “self” over God?  When I forget about eternity and focus on what I want right now?  Why is it that Martyrs and other Saints were able to keep a proper perspective?  Perhaps, whereas I see my soul through the lens of this world, the Saints saw this world through the lens of eternity.  How can I foster in my own heart their passion for the eternal life? Mother Mary Loyola suggests that I see my soul through the eyes of God, rather than examining it through the muck and the mire of this world:

Now what does God think of my soul? He values it so much that He has been always occupied about it. As long as He has been God, He determined to create it and do for it all that He has done. From all eternity He has been looking at it with love, and making plans for its happiness. From all eternity He appointed the Angel who was to be its guardian, the graces He would give it, the time when it should be sent into the world. This was to be, not that dark, dreadful time before our Lord came, but the time since His coming, since the foundation of His Church and the institution of His Sacraments, that so my soul might have its share in all these priceless blessings. It was to work out its salvation, not in a Pagan country, but in a Christian land … Holy Church was to make it His child and an heir of Heaven by Baptism, and prepare it by her teaching and her sacraments for its place in His Kingdom. The Precious Blood is to be always at hand that its sins may be washed away. Every morning the graces stored up in Holy Mass are to be unlocked for it, that it may come and help itself freely. More favoured than the child of any earthly king, it is to be admitted at any hour of the day or night into the Royal Presence to ask for all it needs or desires. Any one harming it will incur the anger of God; all who love and help it will be rewarded by Him. Angels and saints are to be its brothers and sisters; the Blessed Mother of God is to take it into her motherly keeping; and God Himself it is to call by the tender name of Father.

What could this Father do for me that He has not done? What has He spared that my soul may be eternally happy? Nothing – not even His only Son. For its sake this well-beloved Son came down from Heaven, lived a life of sorrow, and died a death of shame. For its sake He rose again and ascended into Heaven, that He might prepare its place there. And – as if all this were not enough – He is coming down from Heaven again to bring it a Gift, greater than all He has yet given – His own very Self – to be its Food.  

This is the value God puts upon my soul. This is how He treats it. All this He does not think too much to secure its salvation. And what value do I set upon it? How have I treated it up to now? – p. 15-16

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 3 Part 2: Chapter 1-12

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you struggle with the concept of eternity in your everyday life? If so, what steps have you taken to keep this life in proper perspective?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

 

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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  • Lisa Tuckett

    This weeks readings really spoke to me-wow, what a wake up call!

    Eternity is a fleeting thought once in awhile. after this segment I pray that I will do better at keeping it in front of me day.

    In particular I liked the concept of seeing this world through the eyes of eternity rather than the other way around. Lots to meditate on!

  • caries_husband

    I struggle with the concept of eternity each and every workday because they just seem to drag on forever 🙂

    and also in the sense that I know “no eye has seen or ear has heard…” has always kind of prevented me from thinking on it too much as I don’t know how I could start to even reflect on it and when I do I know that its more and that I haven’t even begun to understand what waits. The Divine Liturgy, Eucharistic Adoration and even the Rosary seem to be the only access points to Eternity for me as somehow they seem to be where I have a sense of being prepared for and entering in somehow that most peaceful garden. I feel I am home and I want it to last like that forever.

  • Jim

    Did anyone besides me get a little weak in the knees when St. Francis insisted on making a general confession? When I reached that point, I remembered why I began reading it several years ago but abandoned it. I made a general confession years ago (I converted in 1996) and that was a powerful experience but I really don’t think I can go back and do that again. It’s too terrifying for me. Maybe if I went to Burma or somewhere and confessed to a priest who speaks no English….Anyone else feel that way?

    • CarieF

      Jim, I can relate to being terrified to make a general confession. I made one a few years back at a retreat, but as terrifying as I *felt*, the Holy Spirit graced me with that “urgency” that St. Francis talked about. In chapter 8 he said (speaking of contrition), “so when [contrition] becomes strong and urgent, it purges away all the affections which cling around habits of sin.” That urgency far outweighed being terrified and through the Sacrament I was indeed purged of affections towards some very, very bad things. Thank You, God!

    • Chris Baker

      Yes! I’ve had a similar experience. But I get the sense that he is asking you to make a general confession if you haven’t been active in the sacraments — or if you have been lax in your sacramental life. Either way, if you have questions about it, it’s probably a good subject to discuss with your priest.

      St Francis de Sales isn’t just writing words to be read and then thought about later. His words are meant to be put into action in our prayer life.

    • Mary G

      Hi Jim! I never made a general confession. Once I asked a priest if I could make one and he said ” NO!, you’ve no need to!”. But I really wanted to badly at the time, I felt a need to get everything of my past out all at once, even though I was in the state of grace at the time. So what I did was as I remembered things from my past that I had not previously remembered confessing, I would add it to my weekly confessions and that’s how I got it all out! And trust me, there was some very awful things to tell….but my desire to be cleansed and healed over rode my fears of humiliation. plus, I did it behind the screen! Lol! Now Have absolutely no desire to do a general confession. But if my confessor advised me to do it I would, even though I now see no reason to.

  • CarieF

    I can’t say that I struggle with the concept of eternity. The prayers of the Church help greatly to keep my focus where it should be. Although I am tempted every day to distraction by the cares of everyday life — wife, stay-at-home older mom of a little one, homeschooling… I look forward to St. Francis’ words to help stay my focus.

    The last chapter in this reading was a prayer answered, as I recently wondered if defects and imperfections were venial sins. St. Francis answered my question exactly.

    Vicki, thank you for selecting this life changing book.

  • Mary G

    It is really hard to think of eternity, while we are going about our business of the day, tending to our loved ones, …we are concentrating on what is before us, we are centered on the “exterior”. It is part of being human…part….of being human. the other part is interior…ah! if we practice being present to God in our daily work, then we earthly creatures are looking to eternity. I often neglect this important practice, but I keep asking God to remind me! Today I read in Divine Intimacy, a wonderful prayer which I wrote down in my book of prayers.

    “Your love alone, O Lord, can conquer the great inconsistencies of my mind and heart, and establish them in You, so that my life may become interior, rather than exterior centered on You and Your grace, instead of myself and the things of this earth.

    One day, I was hit with a grace ..perhaps it was my guardian angel giving me a nudge, as I had not been living a holy life…far from it….and realized that I am going to die, and over a period of time I was preoccupied with my coming death..and fearful; I even imagined myself on the embalming table at the mortician. And I would go into a panic mode! I eventually got over the obsession, but it left a mark on me, a total realization that I am not going to be here very long! And I examined my life, and I began to change my ways and to live for God alone! As I read this book I am amazed! It is as if the dear St Francis himself was schooling me back then, as I have learned much of what is in this book so far and I am also learning so much more to help me on the way! Thanks be to God in His Angels and in His Saints!

    • Vicki

      Your prayer speaks directly to my heart – thank you so much for sharing it with us! I think I’ll be writing it down too.

  • Monica

    I feel it is a tough to imagine how eternity might be amidst the pains and struggles in this life, but each one of us has a choice to live as if we are already living in eternity, that’s in true peace and happiness as St. Therese says, I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. God gives us Free will, it’s up to us to freely accept. God is a God of the living, He wants us whole (body, mind, and spirit) for Himself. May God give us all the grace to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit in work in us.

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