SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

A Battle for Something Beautiful

November 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Anthony Lilles, Desolation, FEATURED, Perseverance, Suffering

Many of my closest friends, though they live disciplined and prayerful lives, struggle with various kinds of depression and painful sorrows.  They are tested beyond what seems humanly possible to bear.  Sometimes this struggle is related to exterior circumstances – a disease, the loss of a friend or an accident at work. At other times, this struggle emerges from within. Although counseling sometimes helps and other therapeutic efforts help them manage the interior pain, they sometimes are overwhelmed. They long for some kind of relief or release, and they turn to prayer. The answer they often receive is not easy or a quick fix. Sometimes, for months and years, words of a psalm become their own words, “My tears have become my bread by day and by night, while men say to me all day long ‘Where is your God'” (Psalm 42:3)?

In the midst of difficult struggles, the Apostle Paul counsels Timothy to press on in righteousness, holiness, faith, love, patience, and meekness (see 1 Tim. 6:11). We must not think that such a pursuit did not involve bouts of deep sorrow and even feeling at times tormented and overwhelmed. Saint Paul himself was tormented until he discovered the strength of God in his own weakness (see 2 Cor. 12: 7-9).  Our weaknesses, dispositions, inadequacies, even the voids of our life are never obstacles to pursuing this course and fighting this fight. These interior hardships are simply a different kind of stepping stone, the next foothold for the climb that Christ leads us on.

This race, this fight, this course we are on … it does not avoid pain and hardships. It is not intimidated by the riddles of human existence or the struggle for integrity and dignity. It is not a pathway to meaninglessness – but out of death's nihilism, it journeys by faith. This is a battle for something beautiful.  It claims the ground of what is good and true. Our hope in this fight is in something more powerful than human industry and cleverness. Strength for this journey is not drawn from this world below or from the broken cisterns of self-preservation, but from above.

The evil against which we contend is not without limits, and our failures are not the last word about who we are or where we stand. Those painful voids that we fall into are not deeper than His love. When we feel cast down, even as we fight to remember God and to believe in the salvation that comes from Him, He is not indifferent to our plight, but fights for us, for He has taken our side. He lifts high His banner of love over us. Will we stand with Him?

Away from escapism, this pathway of love cuts deep into misery and contends against everything that threatens our nobility. Let us press on and run to our fatherland. Let us fight hard for what is true. We are not too young to make good progress. We are not so old that we cannot quicken our pace. Indeed, we are closer to the finish line than when we first began. It is not the second wind of limited human effort – but the new wind of the Spirit that carries us forward.  No depth, no height, no creature can stand between us and the prize that is held out.

 

This post originally appeared as “Fighting the Good Fight” on Beginningtopray.blogspot.com

Image credit: Jarred Craig on Unsplash

 

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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 for Queen of Angels House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. 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 Saint 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 Therese 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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