The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross.
There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church #2015)
So, I am participating in Father Richard Heilman’s Nineveh 90 devotion. You can read more about it here. It is comprised of two parts: a 54 day Rosary Novena for holiness followed by a 33 day Preparation for Marian Consecration.
I also need and ask for prayers for perseverance. I oftentimes go a number of days praying my rosary, but sure as shootin’ I make it part of something bigger I lose my steam.
This is, of course, in preparation for and leading up to the 100th Anniversary of Fatima on May 13, 2017. For those of you unfamiliar with that event, you can go to Father Heilman’s blog here for a good article as well as to the best website on the Fatima Apparitions here. As a sidenote, I hate the word apparition because it makes it sound like it is fake or a paranormal event with a heavy dose of unreality – kind of like big-foot sightings. Our Lady’s appearance at Fatima is definitely NOT in the same vein as a big-foot sighting.
Today, during my devotion for day one for Nineveh 90, the above quote stuck in my craw, and it was from the Catholic Catechism no less. Of course, we are speaking of spiritual perfection here and union with God, not perfection in our dealings with humanity or ourselves in regards to mistakes, such as running a red light or forgetting an ingredient in a favorite recipe.
We will not, of course, attain that perfect mind and spirit as like God’s unless we pass by the cross, pick it up, and carry it as Jesus himself did. This is what sets saints apart from sinners, and the Catholic Church has a long history of saints who took up their crosses to follow our Lord in sanctity.
But, enough about saints for the moment. This is about me. And I, for one, find this cross hard and exacting. It can take a toll on me physically (mortification, chosen or otherwise), emotionally, and psychologically. I do not wish to give up the pleasures of the world. I don’t like to be made fun of for what I believe or choose to do because of those beliefs.
And oftentimes, when I am moving forward with my cross, it feels as if I am moving backward. In this world of immediate gratification, I certainly do not wish to – gasp – wait for some sort of confirmation from heaven above that I did or am doing the right thing. I want positive reinforcement of a feel good nature, and I want it now! (Where is my sticker, God?)
Of course, this is not God’s plan, and it is not the natural order of heavenly things. It matters not that our sticker book is looking scarce and nothing new has been placed in it recently. It matters not that we feel we are not moving in a solid direction. What matters is that God, for some reason, will only aid our spiritual perfection if we embrace the cross and ALL it entails not matter how difficult or unpleasant it may be.
One of my favorite scenes in The Passion of the Christ is when Jesus lovingly grabs the cross just before He is to carry it. He knows what He has been asked to do. He knows what is to come. And yet, the very instrument of his crucifixion He kisses, holds tenderly, and embraces, because he knows that by subjecting himself to the Father’s will, no matter how cruel it seems on a human level, in the heavenly kingdom what He is about to do will save souls.
And Christ himself, in embracing the cross, uses the two best instruments for perfection available to us – renunciation of our wills and engaging in a spiritual battle. After all, God may not give us stickers, but he does give us tools – and good ones at that.
However, I will readily admit I do not like either of these particularly either, any more than I like a shovel or a hoe. (I know. No sticker for me because of my attitude.)
The thing of it is – I find renouncing things to be hard, whether its small acts of mortification or the rooting out of sins that are large and more cumbersome. The first, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad, but giving them up for short periods of time aids in the growth of personal discipline and detaches us from the things of this world.
The second? Well, yea, you probably guessed. They are personal habits or sins that need to be rooted out at the source, much like a bad weed in the garden. The only way to get rid of them is to cut them off at the source. When the weeds come back or . . . er . . . we stumble and get all muddy with sin? Make a good confession, put on our combat boots, and go at it again.
Yea, if you are like me, you seem to do that like ALL the time.
We live in a time when the devil is literally licking at our heels, at our families, our community, and our world, even as that very world is imploding around us. Engaging in battle is hard, sweaty, and dangerous, but God has given us the tools to succeed if we will only use them.
And yes, he has gi
ven us our own crosses to carry, and as shown to us by our Lord himself, they lead to something greater than ourselves.
So yea, I guess I’ll put my combat boots on, grab my rosary, and get to work following God’s plan.
And no, I won’t be asking for any stickers anytime soon.