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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Bloom Where You’re Planted

January 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Book Club, Sarah Reinhard

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An Introduction to the Devout Life (Week 11 of 14)

We accuse our neighbors in little things, but we excuse ourselves in great things. We seek to buy cheap and sell dear. We demand justice towards others, but towards ourselves mercy and indulgence. We would have none find fault with our words, but we are sensitive and captious to the words of others. We would fain make our neighbor give up any property we want and are willing to pay for; is it not more just that he should retain it and leave us our money? We are displeased with him because he will not study our conveniences; has he not rather reason to complain to us for striving to inconvenience him?

An Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, Chapter XXXVI, Paragraph II

Bloom Where You're Planted

Here I spent all this time thinking this was a book written long ago and far away, and it turns out it was written just yesterday, JUST FOR ME.

What? You mean you relate with this too?

OK, so maybe we all relate with this. Maybe everyone is nodding along and then stopping suddenly, realizing the implications of those nods.

But before I go too in-depth, and because this was the second paragraph from the entire six-chapter assignment, let me share another excerpt:

No person who has an appointed duty or vocation should indulge in wishing for some manner of life different from that which is suitable to it and its indispensable conditions; for such indulgence disturbs the mind, and enfeebles it in the performance of its necessary duties. If I wish for Carthusian solitude, I waste my time and allow this desire to take the place of that which ought to occupy me, namely, to perform my present duty faithfully.

An Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, Chapter XXXVII, Paragraph II

I may not make it any further into a discussion of our reading, because between these two brief injunctions, I find myself mentally curled up and seriously challenged. Curled up because I am a hypocrite. I demand that which I do not expect to give. I gripe in the comfort of my mind about the imperfections of others, blatantly ignoring the glaring imperfections I exude. Seriously challenged because, in the midst of the Winter Which May Not Ever End, I find myself housebound with children who are driving me nuts (no kidding).

Forget Carthusian solitude. I have longed for school to just be in session again. I have longed for them to just sleep all day. I have longed to spend a moment not preparing food for someone who just ate five minutes ago.

And therein lies the problem.

Recently, another book club I'm a part of read The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. It's one of my favorite books, and somehow, these passages from de Sales reminded me of this gem from those pages:

Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy [referring to God] has of reality of a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present–either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 15, Paragraph II

There's a temptation to live in the Past or the Future. What de Sales is alluding to, and what Lewis made so clear to me in his satire, is that the Present Moment is what counts. How I live now, how I respond now, how I turn to God in this moment, in this challenge, in this…

Tomorrow will come. And there will be new challenges and blessings. Yesterday's full of the same. But today? Right now? That‘s where I've been planted. That‘s where God wants me to bloom.

One more tidbit from this section, because I've found it to be so true:

…one should always remember that poison enters the soul by the ears, as it enters the body by the mouth.

An Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, Chapter XXXVIII, Paragraph IX

How many burdens do I carry because I can't forget those hurtful words she uttered? When have I heard his voice yelling that phrase at me? Why must I carry this with me, over and over and over?

I don't know the answers to that, but the wisdom and insight in this one sentence continues to strike me. The things we hear go onto a mental replay. I can forget the good easily enough (and do), but the bad, the hurtful, the pain-inflicting? It's with me forever, a scar on me deep inside.

Well, those are the past. I'm in the now. I have some blooming to do…

Reading Assignment:

Week 11 Part 4: Chapter 1-11

Discussion Questions:

1. What struggles do you face to live in the present moment, to fully embrace your vocation and/or occupation? How can you change your attitude and approach toward your neighbor?

2. What might you be listening to or hearing that is acting as a poison for your soul? What are some ways to guard against the “poison” entering your soul (and your ears)?

3. There was a lot of good to share in this section. What about de Sales' discussion of married and single life most resonated with you?

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 Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at SnoringScholar.com and is the author of a number of books for families.

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  • Vicki

    Sarah, I’m so grateful for your chosen topic! The notion of blooming where I’m planted has been much eluding me lately. I honestly think this must be what a mid-life crisis feels like – because it always comes back to my age, and a recognition of the career goals I have yet to achieve. My current situation leaves little time to pursue all those professional goals that tug at my heart. While this never bothered me before, this year has been an emotional challenge. I’ve been reading Interior Freedom by Jaques Philippe, which has helped a lot. I’d very much like to read it with the group – it’s a tiny book that packs a great punch for this kind of problem!

    • LizEst

      Got the book sitting on my desk. Started it, but life got in the way! Ha! You’re absolutely right. This would be a great read for the group. I second the motion! God bless you, Vicki…and Sarah, too!

    • Mary L

      Vicki…I read ‘Interior Freedom’ several years ago and loved it, particularly his thoughts on the difference between consent and resignation. Then I found Fr. Philippe’s ‘Searching for and Maintaining Peace.’ It also was so enlightening and helpful.

      • LizEst

        Yes, the one about peace is great too.

      • Vicki

        Thanks for the tip – I’ll look that title up, too!

  • Faustina11

    Introduction to the Devout Life changed my life. Time to read it again with more reflection such as yours and with yours. Thank you.

  • Patti Knudsen

    I also read his Searching for and Maintaining Peace. Wonderful…reminds me I should get it out again. I know there are many great books to read….and so little time! Another favorite, I recommend highly, A Friendship Like No Other, by Fr. William Barry, SJ. So many nuggets, and a view of God and the Holy Spirit I had not previously considered. Life changing!

  • Jim

    Hi Sarah,
    I have also been struck over these past weeks by how fresh and relevant this book is after so many centuries. It could have been written last year, it seems to me. Apparently truth, grace, and human nature haven’t changed much since St. Francis’ day.

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