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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Journal of a Soul Wk 4 of 12

October 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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And what about all the other things which surround me? If God has given them to me they are extras: they have not been given to all, nor to all in equal measure. Their purpose is to serve man in the attainment of his end. Any other use I may make of them is bad, upsets the order of nature and lands me in deplorable confusion. My attitude towards them must be governed by that golden rule of detachment for which the saints were so much admired. My own St. Francis de Sales speaks for them all. This detachment is not natural apathy, such as we find in certain characters, but supernatural virtue, detachment from everything, according to the will or pleasure of God; serenity, calm, nobility of soul, profound philosophy because of which, in aiming at loftier ideals, we no longer care for these base and worthless things, or we use them in whatever way they represent themselves as powerful wings to soar to God, to practice virtue and to make ourselves holy. Here I will mention a few practical examples, not without relevance to myself, which I must bear carefully in mind.

The blessings of fortune, such as wealth – the Lord could have given them to me or withheld them – I had no right to them. He was pleased to withhold them. Why should I complain about this? Their absence is a means of my sanctification. So, blessed be the name of the Lord. At times dire necessity obliges me to contract small debts with the Bursar, and I dislike very much having to do this; it makes me feel wretched.But this is not right: God permits this to happen, and that is enough.

Mind and memory are gifts from God. Why should I lose heart if others have more of these gifts than I? Might I not have received even less than God has given me? Examination results and successes are things which, whether I will or no, mean a great deal to me. Very well, when I have done all that God has required of me, what does the good or bad result of my studies matter?

Sometimes, even in my practices of piety, an intense effort to preserve stillness in my soul and to enjoy all the sweetness of conversing with God is all of no avail: my heart feels as if it were made of stone, I have a steady stream of distractions and the Lord seems to have hidden himself. Sadness and discontent take hold of me and I become agitated. Away with all those weaknesses! We must keep cheerful and calm, in all circumstances. Indeed, we must rejoice, since that is God’s will. – Journal of a Soul, pg. 127-128

 

A year ago, I would have told you that I’ve developed a spirit of detachment. After all – my husband and I drive cars that are almost 13 years old, and for 12 years we’ve lived in houses that have been constantly under construction. In most of the eight years of our last home, our family photos bely brown flaked off wallpaper in the kitchen, complete with worn honey oak cabinets, a pantry that consisted of wide open shelves in the hall, and a plywood floor. Not only have we lived in a humble environment for several years, but we’ve also opted to purchase our clothes from consignment shops and garage sales, even though we could have afforded to do otherwise.

While I’m sure we’ve lived more elaborately than most of people in the world, I’ve long considered the above to be quite an improvement over the girl who purchased a Mont Blanc pen with her first paycheck just out of college. Twenty years ago, I probably would have been scorned on this site – laughed off the page as having much too much of an attraction to the material things of this world.

Having grown up with a single mom in a lower middle class home, I coveted the large homes and nice cars of friends, determined to have them all when I became an adult. I’m embarrassed to share that as soon as I got my first job, I went to work acquiring all the things I’d never had – there wasn’t a name-brand I didn’t like. I had a pair of shoes and jewelry for every outfit, and credit cards for just about every major department store in a three-state radius. I purchased a new car, rented a nice apartment and made eating out part of my regular diet.

Thankfully, God’s grace and a loving husband helped me to see the error of my ways. Over the past several years my husband and I have actually developed financial goals, preferring to live debt-free and give more money back. We recognize, as John XXIII comments, that “in aiming for loftier ideals, we no longer care for these base and worthless things, or we use them in whatever way they present themselves as powerful wings to soar to God.” For us “things” no longer hold any value as they will never get us to heaven.

Materially, that’s where I’m at. And in all my despicable pride, I’ve given myself a figurative pat on the back over the past few years for having pried the claws of the material world from my soul.

But the devil is sooo sly. Of course he would have my pride delude me into thinking I’d released my attachments, while he inched his way through the back door, creeping much deeper into my heart than material attachments could ever take him.

Now, rather than wanting to keep up with the Jones’ by purchasing this, that or the other “thing,” I realize I’ve been trying to catch up with every person I meet whom I believe to be more virtuous than I. When I see other mothers with their children, I think, why can’t I be more cheerful? Why can’t I be more patient? Why can’t I be more loving? So and so is such a great wife – why am I not more attentive to my husband?

Of course, I tell myself that it’s good to want to grow in virtue. And if I want to become more virtuous, I need to spend time with virtuous people, right? Whether reading about them or befriending them, this is where I should focus my efforts. But I’ve found in my life there is a slippery slope between looking to others for inspiration and beating myself down for not measuring up.

Rather than being thankful for the gifts I’ve been given, I spend much time being frustrated with my lack of virtue. I fail to trust that my Heavenly Father will grant grace for my spiritual growth as He sees fit, and I spend hours contemplating my shortcomings and my failures.

Instead, I must recognize that where I am is God’s will for me at this moment. As Saint Thérèse of Lisieux says, “He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but He has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever He glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.

Whether material wealth, intellectual or spiritual gifts or even spiritual desolation, where I am is where God wants me to be. And at each moment, His great gifts, whether large or small compared to others, are given to Me in the exact measure needed for My sanctification.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. What attachments have you struggled with over the years? Have you overcome them, and if so, what advice do you have for helping others overcome theirs?

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

Reading Assignment:

Week 5: 1904 – End of 1914 (pg. 152-187)

Happy Reading!

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club:  https://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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