Do you know your ruling grace?

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I first encountered St. Peter Julian Eymard when I came across his marvelous nine volume set of little books devoted to the Holy Eucharist.

As I began to collect these treasures penned by the French priest who founded the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, I found myself particularly drawn to one, simply titled “Holy Communion.”

My somewhat tattered copy of this little book is heavily highlighted, especially within the chapter named The Grace of Life. In this little chapter, I learned from St. Peter Julian something I had not heard of before….that each soul seeking the way of perfection on the spiritual journey possesses a “ruling grace.”

It is a grace of perfection which demands much more than the mere accomplishment of the law; it is the life, the sanctity of the soul.

….in the supernatural order, there are ruling graces, accessory graces, and complementary graces. Of the ruling graces, a single one is sufficient to lead to perfection. They give life and force to all other graces; they are the seal and impress of a life. (Holy Communion, pp. 170-171)

Did you ever wonder why you may not be especially attracted to fasting and penance, or why you admire those who work intensely with the poor, but you yourself do not seem drawn to do so? Do you struggle to have a constant awareness of Our Lord’s Passion, or become frustrated because you cannot seem to pray the rosary as often as you think you should?

If so, the above virtues and devotions are most likely not your ruling grace…the grace of your life. The “impress” of your life.

The ruling grace of a soul has two effects: first, it points out the path the soul must follow in its spiritual conduct; second, it guides the soul to a special vocation.

This grace of graces will give a special impress to piety, to virtue, to life. It will be the moving force of all actions, so that the soul will make every advance, will do everything from a single impulse.

To embrace all virtues together is beyond the scope of the human spirit. We cannot fix our gaze on all at once; it would be too great a strain and would result in a loss of simplicity and in suffering for us. Our efforts would be scattered instead of converging in unity toward one central object.

Each one must seek inwardly to discover his predominant grace, for upon correspondence with this grace depends the entire spiritual life. (Ibid, pp. 172-173)

And then St. Peter Julian continues on for several pages, writing about his own personal ruling grace, devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

He describes this grace of special love for the Blessed Sacrament to be the sweetest and most excellent of the ruling graces, and also the most frequently given by God.

At the end of this chapter, he warns that, “We must cooperate with this grace with great fidelity; if we are unfaithful to our ruling grace, we shall be unfaithful to all others. ( p.177)

I am grateful to St. Peter Julian Eymard for his teaching on the grace of our life. It gives one peace in orienting prayer and action in the direction one’s soul feels especially drawn. It relieves guilt over not forcing oneself into spiritual practices which do not seem to resonate with the soul.

Most wonderfully, it instills passion and joy into the spiritual journey, so that even when one is wandering in the desert, they still find comfort in clinging to their ruling grace…that special grace which acts like a prism through which they view the mysteries of God.

This teaching of St. Peter Julian does not mean that one is dispensed from seeking perfection through other means, such as penance, Our Lord’s Passion, etc. But the soul who has identified its ruling grace will learn to incorporate this special attraction into every area of their spiritual life.

In the very heart of the tree is the sap, which is its life. Wood and bark protect that life and tend to shield it from the cold of winter.

Ah Well! Your sovereign grace is the sap which gives fertility to every branch of your life. Guard it well; defend it as the heart, as the soul of your supernatural life. ( p. 177)

St. Peter Julian Eymard, pray for us!

(All quotations above in italics are taken from Book II of the Eymard Library, Holy Communion,published by The Eymard League, 1948)

(from the archives, first published August 2, 2012)

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…just as no one knows the Father except the Son

Holytrinity

‘Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.’

When I was in formation for First Promises in the Discalced Secular Carmelites, my formation teacher taught our little group to be aware of words, thoughts, ideas, etc., which seemed to recur throughout the days and weeks.  This could happen in a book or through something we were listening to or watching or in a friendly conversation, but most importantly, especially during prayer.  She instructed us to write down these “coincidences,” and to look for a pattern, because God often communicates with us in this way.

I remembered this little exercise when over the past couple of Sundays at Mass, the phrase, Son of the Father, from the beautiful song of praise, the Gloria, caught my attention.  How many times have I heard these words, and yet suddenly they were impressed deeply upon my heart.

Monday morning, when I tuned in to Women of Grace on EWTN, Johnette’s guest for the week was Father George Montague,SM who has recently written a book entitled: Living in the Father’s Embrace.  If I were still keeping my little notebook, I would have had much to write.

As though I needed more encouragement, the patron Saint chosen for this week’s Women of Grace series was St. Therese, described as  “a patron for loving the Father.”

Lord, what does all of this mean?  I whispered.  I thought perhaps it would please Jesus if I began calling Him Son of the Father more often…not just at Mass.

Then I turned to the Scriptures and recalled the words of Jesus:  “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Matthew 11:27 (NJB)

On Johnette’s programs this week, one theme has been how so many view the Father as the God of the Old Testament.  Many people fear thunderbolts and severity if they draw too near to God the Father.  Yet, Who is Jesus but the perfect Image of the Father?  All of the tenderness, mercy and love we are attracted to in Jesus dwell in the Heart of the Father as well.

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In the introduction to his book, Father Montague writes:  “…if we really want to know Jesus, we had better ask the Father to show us who Jesus really is.  And by the same token, to know the Father as Jesus knows him…and that is the only way…Jesus must give us the gift of his own experience of the Father.”

I am excited and humbled that Jesus is calling me, and surely you as well, to better know His Father as He knows Him, and in turn, to know Jesus as only the Father knows the Son.

To know God more is to love Him more!  Let us enter deeply into this revelation which Jesus, Son of the Father, desires to share with us.  Surely His Sacred Heart burns for us to love His Father with the greatest affection and trust.

St. Therese, whose confidence in God knew no bounds, spoke of playing on the “lap” of God in Heaven.  Surely she will indeed be a patron for us in learning to love God the Father.

 

Father Montague gives us this lovely prayer in the introduction to his book:

Jesus, lay your hands upon my head at this
moment and send me the Holy Spirit to teach me to
know the Father as you know him, to call him
“Abba.” As I read, may your Spirit breathe upon
my heart and enlighten my mind to this mystery of
Trinitarian LOVE.  

Quotations by Father George Montague, SM are from his book:
Living in the Father’s Embrace
Experiencing the Love at the Heart of the Trinity
Introduction: Invitation
Publisher: The Word Among Us Press
Copyright 2014 by George T. Montague, SM

The transforming Gaze of Jesus….

Below is an excerpt (permitted to be shared) from a book I think I would like to read.  I have long been fascinated by the “gaze” of Jesus, this unseen “Face to face” which we can even now enter into…especially in the Presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The gaze of Jesus rests always upon us, and how He longs for us to us to fix our minds and hearts upon Him, in a mutual gaze of love.

Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy….  Psalm 34:5

divinemercystfaustina

The following is Vinny Flynn’s introduction to his latest book, Mercy’s Gaze: 100 Readings from Scripture and the Diary of St. Faustinapublished by Marian Press:

“O Eternal Love, You command Your Sacred Image to be painted” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1).

So begins the Diary of St. Faustina, written by a simple, uneducated Polish nun, who was destined to become the first saint of the Jubilee Year that ushered in the third Christian millennium.

It seems fitting that her Diary should begin this way, for the painting of Christ as He appeared to her — known now throughout the world as the Divine Mercy Image — reveals to those who look deeply the entire message of mercy that comes from the 600-page Diary.

Why did the Lord appear to her and command that this image be painted? The clue comes in an easily overlooked phrase in Faustina’s dramatic description of this first major revelation recorded in the Diary. The Lord has just appeared to her, dressed in the white robe of the priesthood, with His right hand raised in blessing and His left hand holding His garment open in the area of His Heart, from which gush forth red and pale rays as an endless fountain of mercy. Faustina writes: “I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord” (Diary, 47).

Filled with “awe, but also with great joy,” Faustina says nothing, but simply keeps her gaze fixed on Christ. The Lord doesn’t immediately speak to her either, but only “after a while” tells her to paint His image. He first gives her time to contemplate in her mind and heart what she is seeing with her eyes — to look as Our Lady looked, pondering in her heart deeply so that she could enter more fully into the mystery of Christ’s love, in complete trust and surrender to His will.

Pope John Paul II (now blessed), who referred to St. Faustina as “a sign for our times,” considered this type of contemplative gazing so important that he proclaimed it as the agenda of the Church for the next thousand years. “To contemplate the face of Jesus,” he wrote in his encyclical on the Eucharist, “and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘programme’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 6).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also stresses the importance of this gazing upon the Lord, connecting it with the daily conversion we all need. “The human heart,” it tells us, “is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced” (1432).

How can looking at Jesus convert our hearts? Because when we really look, we also see the Father and come to understand His plan of mercy for all.

Jesus is the “image of the invisible God,” writes St. Paul (Col 1:15). Who’s the “invisible God”? The Father. Jesus Himself makes this clear when He explains to the apostles, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

According to Pope John Paul II, this is why Jesus came — to show us that God is a Father who is “rich in mercy. … Believing in the crucified Son means ‘seeing the Father'” (Dives in Misericordia, 1, 7).

What’s all this have to do with converting our hearts?

“Conversion to God,” John Paul continues, “always consists in discovering His mercy, … [and] is always the fruit of the ‘rediscovery’ of this Father, who is rich in mercy” (Dives in Misericordia, 13).

So, when we gaze upon Christ as He is represented in this image — not only with our eyes but with our minds and hearts — we “rediscover” the Father. We recognize that it’s His hand raised over us in blessing, His mercy gushing forth from the Heart of Jesus. We come to know who Christ is, who the Father is, and who we are called to be, and we are progressively transformed into living images of mercy.

Christ didn’t command this image to be painted so that we could simply hang it on a wall and glance at it now and then. We are not supposed to just look at this image; we are supposed to become it.

As St. Paul explains, “All of us, gazing with unveiled faces upon the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18).

Saint Faustina’s spiritual director, Blessed Fr. Michael Sopocko, in recounting her instructions for the painting of the image, emphasizes that it should be painted in such a way that our gazing upon it also reveals to us the compassionate gaze of Jesus.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) also speaks of this gaze of Christ, explaining that communicating with Christ demands not only that we gaze on Him but also that we “allow him to gaze on us, listen to him, get to know him” (God Is Near Us, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003, p. 97).

This gazing upon Christ — and receiving His gaze — changes us, transforms us, bit-by-bit, healing our hearts and enabling us to entrust our lives to Him. It is this double gazing that I invite you to experience as you read this book. Don’t attempt to consume it quickly, all at once, but sit for a while with each entry. Ponder it to make it your own and allow it to touch your life. Take the time to contemplate the face of Jesus. Get to know Him and listen in your heart to what He wants to say to you today through Sacred Scripture and the Diary of St. Faustina.

Looking upon Jesus in this way and seeing how He looks at you with love, may you come to recognize and embrace the mystery of the Father’s mercy — the love that is greater than all sin, greater than all evil; the love that can reach the darkest corners of the world and heal all our brokenness; the love that we don’t deserve and can’t earn, but that is freely given; the love that can fill us to overflowing, transforming us, like St. Faustina, into living images of mercy for others.