I got to speak to the Military Council of Catholic Women today during their Day of Reflection. I was honored and humbled to be asked. Unfortunately, because it is a ‘closed’ Facebook group (members only), I can’t share that particular video with you here.
But I have posted my remarks below. I don’t say them word for word necessarily and I sometimes ad lib, as the Spirit moves me. Nor or you going to get my distracting facial expressions and hand motions! But you’ll, hopefully, get the heart of my message. God bless you! And thanks!
Hi! I’m going to talk with you today about detachment, but first…I want to recommend Brother Lawrence’s book, the practice of the presence of God, to you. Brother Lawrence was a humble monk who lived in the 17th century. Like so many humble saints, his faith long outlives and outshines his earthly existence. And that is great with him, I’m sure. I have said many times before how I don’t know where my thoughts end and my prayers begin anymore. And so I understand a little bit of what Brother Lawrence writes about in his letters. But not all, and I SO want to!
He says, among other things, “Offer your heart to (God) at every moment. Don’t restrict your love of Him with rules or special devotions. Go out in faith, with love and humility.” So that’s a reminder and maybe even a warning that we don’t need to overdo it in the spiritual practice department. Some devotions are really easy to slip into a busy life; others require more of your time. If you don’t have the time, then dispense with those for now. God understands! Another thing I like to say about God’s expectations of us is ‘No spiritual handstands are required!’ Can you do a handstand? I can’t. But you get my point, I hope. So, say you can’t do a Bible study? Read a verse. No time for a full rosary – pray a decade – anywhere, include the family, pray it while they’re in the bathtub or after bedtime stories with their evening prayers. Just a decade. If or when you are emotionally or physically worn out. Just pray “Jesus I trust in You.” Or “God, help me.” Or “how about the Miraculous Medal prayer, “Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” St. Catherine of Laboure` gave that to us.
Brother Lawrence’s book is very short, and simply written, but there is so much there, I re-read it from time to time. I want to absorb it and practice the presence of God as he does. My favorite thing he said, which is saying something because I love lots of what he says, is “I am doing now what I will do for all eternity. I am blessing God, praising Him, adoring Him, and loving Him with all my heart.” That’s what I want to do. That’s what we all desire, isn’t it? Actually, we can pray at all times, pretty much!
We just need to practice recalling that God is near at all times, that His Spirit is within you. And talk to Him! Praise and thank Him for the wonderful gift of life, yours and your loved ones. But then also you can tell God anything, everything! He already knows our hearts so there’s no need to try to put on a brave face, or a happy face, or a stoic face. Just be yourself and talk to God. Ask Him for things, and expect an answer!
I recommend, and so does the Church, a morning offering! Give your day to God, give Him all of your efforts, your sadness, your joys, your frustrations, your love, your patience, your making the bed, cleaning the toilet, everything! The good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Be reminded that God is with you and that you’re doing everything for Him and your life becomes a prayer.
Another thing to consider is slowing down or resting. You know when God made the Universe He rested on the 7th day, right? It’s called th Sabbath. Only you know what’s so cool about this? His rest is actually THE important thing for us. The work part was just to get it all there and then to rest in the goodness of it, the completed mission, the magnum opus! That’s the part we’re supposed to dwell on – not the work part. We should not think of recreation or being still as an ‘extra’ but more of the ‘essential.’ I know you feel like there’s always something else that needs to be done, whether you have kids at home or it’s just you and your husband. But there WILL ALWAYS be something else till we take our last breath, so sometimes you need to let things go! Go for a walk with your kids instead of making them clean their rooms. Really!
There was this Cisterian Abbott in the 12th Century, Bernard of Clairvaux, who gave this advice. I’m paraphrasing: Be a reservoir and not a canal. (Found in the book, SoulFeast by Marjorie J. Thompson) A canal “pours out as fast as it takes in but reservoir waits till it is full before it overflows, and so communicates its surplus.” You can only give when you have something to give. To give it a modern twist, you’re no good to anyone, including yourself, when you’re “running on empty.” And then this beautiful ending from Bernard, and he’s talking to you and me here: “Out of thy fullness help me if thou canst; and if not, spare thyself.”
You can only be there for someone else if you have a sabbath rest. So, time for spiritual reading, prayer, worship, physical recreation, acts of compassion and creativity, those are all little sabbaths, times to rest in God. We’ve sort of been given a long sabbath right now, many of us. You don’t have places to drive your kids or yourself, you have fewer distractions, a bit more time. Make time for God. And, when you can’t because of reasons beyond your control – and make sure they’re beyond your control – you can remember that morning offering so that all you do is for God, for His glory, to praise Him. It’s a sacrifice of praise. Rejoice in that. Remember that.
There’s lots we can sacrifice for our own good and for the good of our relationship with God, to offer Him “right praise.” That has to do with detachment. Knowing and gratefully acknowledging that nothing in this life will fill the God shaped hole in our hearts.
Some people think of detachment as something for cloistered people who have given up so much of material possessions. But detachment is not just for the cloistered monks and nuns in monasteries. Bishop Robert Barron, who was Father Barron at the time, I believe, back in 2004 gave a wonderful talk on detachment. You can still find it on YouTube or on his Word of Fire (Homilies) channel there. I want to take you through the main points of his talk here today. He based it on the Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel. Luke’s account is briefer but hits the highpoints. So this is my summary of Bishop Barron’s summary of Luke’s shorter version! [And yet it’s still so deep!] So, blessed means something like happy or even ‘lucky,’ according to the good bishop so keep that in mind. OK, so first…
Blessed are the Poor because
Then you are not addicted or attached to material things; they’re Good but not God. (Don’t expect your things you acquire to ever make you happy enough to see you through the dark valleys, right?)
Blessed are the Hungry because
Then you are not addicted or attached to sensual pleasure; once again Good, but not God (This includes food! How many times to I grab a snack out of boredom or because I deserve a treat because of all the drudgery I’m enduring? Asking for a friend!)
Blessed are the Weeping because
Then you are not attached to good feelings/emotional highs (This of course means drugs alcohol or just expecting something exciting or fun to happen every day and being disappointed, frustrated, or even bitter because that’s not happening right now.)
Blessed are you when you are Hated because
Then you are not attached to or addicted to the esteem of others (Too much adulation ends up making your efforts about you. And, to quote the Good Bishop again, “Your life is not about you!” Newsflash!
So detachment means you do NOT hook onto something less than God. Do not limit yourself to the things of this world; be indifferent to the goods of this world.
We are happiest when we are detached from earthly goods; but remember it’s all good, but it’s not the best and actually so many things will be bad for us when they become our reason for being or doing – instead of being and doing for the love of God and for His glory.
We have an INFINITE hunger for God and nothing else will ever fulfill us.
We’re also reminded in this talk that some of the best things we can do don’t feel the least bit good. Things that are noble, that elicit generosity & compassionate won’t necessarily feel good.
He ends with this: Some say the picture of a happy man is Jesus on the Cross –
He exemplifies the Beatitudes. Poor? Stripped of everything, even his garments. Hungry? There is no pleasure here; only suffering. Weeping? The grief and loneliness are oppressive. Hated? Definitely. By Church and state.
Jesus is the blessed One – because He is hooked onto the will of God, who is the ultimate Good.
Have you ever heard of the Litany of Humility? It says things like…
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being wronged …
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
And that’s tough to think about doing. But it’s Jesus. He disregarded the desire of being approved, He was wronged. He was willing to let others be esteemed more than He.
And then, on the Road to Emmaus, He is risen – He’s been with the Father. He’ll go there again soon and remain there. Never abandoning us. That’s His promise to us. He’s our hope. Recall what Jesus did for us – He weeps with us now, just as He rejoices with us.
So, when we follow the Way, who is Jesus, our Leader, our Brother, our Lord, we are never alone. We can speak to Him every minute of every day. Or we can offer Him everything when we wake up out of love and a desire to serve Him.
As we remember what our Lord did for our salvation, we find it easier to bear our own trials, to unite them with Jesus’ suffering out of love. And then, please recall, in the midst of your life however it’s going, the infinite merciful love that God has for us.
I’d like to end with this quote from Blessed Charles Foucauld, a Trappist monk who lived at the turn of the last century. He wanted to start a new congregation in Algeria, but no one joined him. He was later murdered. It would seem his life was a failure. But he was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. And there are “Little Brothers of Jesus,” as his congregation is now known who come from all over the world. Like so many humble saints, like Brother Lawrence, his faith long outlives and outshines his earthly existence.
Blessed Charles is quoted as once saying, “My vocation normally involves solitude, stability and silence…I am sometimes called to something else, like Mary I can only say, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord’.” Maybe we can imitate Blessed Charles in this respect. Who imitates our Blessed Mother Mary.
He also wrote:
“Heaven and me, this perfection and my wretched state—whatever can these things have in common? Your heart, my Lord Jesus. Your heart creates the link between two things that are so unlike.” Sometimes we can feel like we’re in a ‘wretched state.’ But maybe we’re just detached from the goods of this world. Maybe we’re on our way to glory. And maybe, we practice the presence of God, so that as Brother Lawrence says, we are just learning to become more dependent on the grace of God. Let’s pray for that grace. Prayer is talking to God. Talk to Him and tell Him how you’re feeling. He already knows. But like any good
Parent, He wants to hear from you. And the more you talk to Him, the easier it becomes! And the more you listen for His response, you’ll hear God speaking to you! Listen for Him in the voices of your husband or your kids. Even strangers. Or in His Word. Even if, right now, you only hear Scripture on Sunday online Mass.
Don’t make your life tougher if it’s already challenging enough for you right now.
Thank you for joining me today. God bless us all with His peace and grace and unending merciful love!
A quote about detachment from Ralph Martin:
The goal of the process of detachment is not to stop loving the things and people of this world, but, quite to the contrary, to love them even more truly in God, under the reign of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Things and people become even more beautiful and delightful when we see them in this light. There are almost always painful dimensions to this process of ‘letting go’ in order to love more, but it’s the pain of true healing and liberation. Christian detachment is an important part of the process by which we enter into a realm of great freedom and joy.”
“Offering it up” – A reflection on suffering on behalf of others by Patrick Madrid
See Colossians Ch. 1, Paul talks about suffering “on behalf of Christ’s body (the Church). “By suffering and offering it to the Lord – we actually participate in the sufferings of Jesus. And we become more deeply conformed into Jesus Himself. We participate with Jesus, for our own good and also as a sacrifice for other people. It’s a good and meritorious thing to do.”