Spiritual Formation (cont)
The spirit lives off habits and education, like children. If you give a walking aid to a child and always give in to his whims you cannot expect him to become quiet and polite all at once. The spirit is the same. Let it wander and misbehave during the day absorbed in every impression without direction and warnings, and it cannot do other than to become impertinent and restless in due course. Saint Philip says that just as it is impossible to collect all the water in a glass after having poured some of it out, so is it impossible for the mind to be attentive after having voluntarily kept it dissipated.
Alcohol evaporates from an open bottle and the spirit from a mouth filled with chatter, eyes that look at everything and ears that are attentive to every sound.
The saints did not have adventurous souls and always restrained their unruly tendencies.
Active Life Fed By The Inner Spirit
Do not say that the duties of state authorize you to be content with just exterior religious practices. if this were true, you would not be agitated, appealing to me, urged by a nagging reproof of conscience and hoping that I will calm your conscience.
No, I do not justify you and I do not want to deceive you. You are guilty, guilty as was Martha and like busy people who give up the interior life. They lose the taste for it and want to excuse themselves by accusing the work for their spiritual breakdown.
Do not think that I am bitter, because the most gentle of saints (St Francis de Sales) says the same thing. Listen to what he has to say to Filotea:
"Remember to always recollect yourself often, while physically you are seeing to your affairs and during conversations. Nor can this mental solitude be disturbed by the many people who surround you, because if they are around us, they are not inside our hearts, which can remain all alone in God's presence. This was King David's practice in the midst of his many occupations as he alludes to in many of his psalms, for instance: 'And I am always with Thee'—Psalm 72,23; 'I set the Lord always in my sight' — Psalm 15,8; 'To Thee have I lifted up my eyes, who dwellest in Heaven' — Psalm 122,1; 'On Thee have I waited all day long' — Psalm 25,5. Besides, our occupations are not usually so serious that we cannot from time to time withdraw our minds from them to lead them to God in this heavenly solitude" (Filotea or Introduction to the Devout Life).
Therefore, St Francis de Sales also says that it is not just a question of possibility, but of willingness to give more importance to the only business which is important.
If you really persuade yourself of the necessity of interior recollection, if you esteem it to be the most beautiful treasure of your soul and insist for a month to preserve it gently and patiently, you would acquire the habit and find great delight in it.
But do not think and seek God the way a wrong] prejudiced spirit would seek him, discontented, bad-tempered, cold, indifferent and insensible to the groanings, protests, to the longing and efforts of your poor heart turned to Him and longing for Him. In my opinion this is one of the reasons, if not the first, why so many willing souls either languish or go backwards in holy pleasure and, give up the intention of living the intimate life. This is not your case. You consider Him as He really is, you rush to Him with short but ardent movements of the heart, you admire his infinite beauty, you ask for his help, you remind him of his quality of Father rich in everything and you stretch out your hand to him as a poor and needy child. Repeat to Him often the gift of yourself, your whole self, convince that your life is only for his glory and when you are aware that you have usurped his place by giving in to your ego, your honour and personal satisfaction and glory, correct yourself gently and say: "When will I give up my miserable ego?"
Each time you are dissipated and immersed for long time in other occupations, raise your eyes to Him excusing yourself and begging Him to forgive you; then seeing that his gaze is always turned towards you with ineffable love, you will admit your frivolity and express yourself like this: "How can I forget my Beloved, Infinite Love, who never forgets me, and thinks of me, smiles and always sustains me in a most gentle way? Oh, my God, truly my delight and my all, grant that I may never leave you and I offer you my heart in a continuous sacrifice of love!"
I hope you will rest on the heart of Jesus like a bird in its nest.
Scrupulousness In Confession - 1
Be careful but not meticulous, subdued but not scrupulous.
Believe me, daughter, God is not as you imagine Him, a cruel and implacable tax-collector. His judgment is more merciful than our self-judgment, because He sees our fragility and the extenuating circumstances of sin better than we do. Remember that Jesus excused his crucifiers, whereas twenty centuries later, we are severe with them and we are tempted to think that the reason for Jesus to excuse them was based on his mercy and not on the truth. David spoke very well when he said: "It is better to fall into the hands of God than in the hands of men." And I add: "In ours."
But what makes me think that you are subject to scruples? From your own words. "I am afraid that I am blinded by self-love, and I can never explain myself. I think that I confess temptations as temptations while I should frankly say I have sinned, even though I am not certain that I have. Nor is it enough that I add the general intention of pleading guilty as God knows me to be: my conscience then tells me I was not exact, and that I should have simply admitted that I had sinned, giving the exact number of times. Even though I have told the confessor of my doubts I am not tranquil because it seems to me that having been deceived by me at previous confessions he wants to continue thinking I am innocent and therefore his absolution is not valid.
"I have confessed three extra times to make reparation for the past and I think even this poor priest was mistaken, having told him the opinion of my usual Director. If I had kept silent about this, it would have been better."
"Certain of having confessed some sins in their essence, I then suspect that I have not told the circumstances that increase the malice, or to have not specified them all."
For heaven's sake, daughter; be a bit more indulgent with yourself! Do you think that serving God consists of a continuous vortex of painful doubts, of being dragged through labyrinths and juniper woods? Is it possible that God demands so much from his creatures?
From now on be docile to your guide and let yourself be led like one who is blind. For malaria fevers we need quinine and for scruples we need obedience, but a firm and resolute obedience. Say to yourself: whatever happens I will obey. God can never condemn one who is obedient.
[A series of articles from the Voice of Padre Pio, Friary of Our Lady of Grace, 71013 San Giovanni Rotondo, (FG), Italy. Used with permission of: The National Center for Padre Pio, 2213 Old Route 100, Barto, PA 19504, through which a subscription may be obtained.]