“Ladies in Lavender”, Joshua Bell, from the album “the Essential Joshua Bell”, (2005)
Looking back at my last post and reconsidering the feelings and emotions expressed therein. In the post titled “Stupid is as Stupid does: When you have a lot of letters after your name …” I find myself slipping back into old modes of thought and attribution when considering aspects of what I read daily in the media.
Favorite sacred cows of outrage resurface with an alarming facility and I find myself revisiting old modes of thought, old narratives from which no good ever flowed. This is not good for my soul nor conducive to establishment or maintenance of “Peace” in my emotional world. Is it indicative of “trash not put out in the dumpster of my mind”?
A razor I have used successfully when deciding what is important and what to consign to the big blue bin in my back yard is a mantra learned from a young Japanese author, Marie Kondo , who wrote a book entitled: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”; to paraphrase: as you contemplate the possession in question ask yourself “Does it spark joy?”. Most often the answer is no, or even in fact the complete opposite, it sparks distress for myriad reasons.
I have considered the possibility of one applying this razor to one’s thoughts about our life and times, our culture, our news, our entertainment, our justice system, our leaders, our contemporaries. Do they spark joy? In Kondo’s method of tidying up once one settles on the lack of joy in a possession it is permanently consigned to the dump, thrown out for good, never to be retrieved.
I find myself discovering in the back of my mental closet a pile of old shoe boxes containing all the little trash and trinkets of past lives and past modes of thought, past judgements and past sins. I have failed to dispose of these failed thought patterns, rather like Bilbo heading out on his final quest all the while firmly resisting parting with the One Ring of Power.
Again, inspired by a recent post on another site I visit regularly, by a young lady with bipolar. This post too seems appropriate when my busy world is filled with daily crosses and my prayer life is beset by aridity and the temptation to just chuck it all.
As Kasani says: “So how does one achieve peace? It’s actually startlingly simple. The plain, uncomplicated truth is that you will never have peace if you make it a goal in and of itself. Why? Because true peace is simply a side effect. It’s the result of something else. And that something else is trust.”
and in the words of Pope Pius XI:
“The man who prays looks above to the goods of heaven whereon he meditates and which he desires; his whole being is plunged in the contemplation of the marvelous order established by God, which knows not the frenzy of earthly successes nor the futile competitions of ever increasing speed.” –Pope Pius XI
Ultimately it seems that “trust” is found only in “Trust in God”, trust in his love, his forgiveness of all our multitude of transgressions and betrayals, that “Trust” which is articulated in sincere prayer. I find some light to shine on my situation in a little book published in the 1940’s by Father Eugene Boylan, an Irish monk.
Dom Eugene Boylan, O.C.R., was an Irish-born Trappist monk and writer who was born in 1904 and died in 1964. Ordained a priest in 1937, he began writing on spiritual topics, and in the 1940s he published two books, “This Tremendous Lover” and “Difficulties in Mental Prayer”, which became international bestsellers and were translated into many languages.
In the late 1950s he undertook an extensive lecture tour of the United States (“This is the best retreat we ever had at Gethsemani,” commented Thomas Merton after Boylan’s visit there), and in 1962 he was elected the fourth abbot of Mount St. Joseph Abbey in Roscrea, Ireland. Two years later he died in an automobile accident. His book which I am currently reading is called “Difficulties in Mental Prayer“.
In a section entitled “Goodness of Life”, starting on page 66, paragraph 3, Fr. Boylan writes: “But the greatest difficulties in prayer, and the greatest obstacles to its progress, have their roots outside prayer in the general condition of our spiritual life. On the sincerity of our purpose, the truth of our loyalty, the genuineness of our love—on such things does our prayer greatly depend. Everything that can make or mar friendship and its intimacy will make or mar prayer.” …
“Oboe Concerto in D Minor”, Adagio, from “The Ultimate baroque Album”, (2004)
… “Prayer will not develop unless the soul is advancing toward the fourfold purity of conscience, of heart, of mind, and of action.” … “In its perfection, purity of conscience consists in a firm disposition of the will never to consent deliberately to any offense against God or to any departure from His holy will, and is such that as soon as any act is seen to be opposed to the will of God, it is immediately retracted.” pp 67 …
… “Purity of heart consists in keeping all the heart for God alone. It is not enough to rule out all sinful attachments, for if our heart is divided by any inordinate attachment, even to lawful recreations, to our work, to persons, or to anything else, we cannot say that we love God with our whole heart. There always will be attachments in the human heart, but they must be subordinate to God and to His will so that they can never usurp His place as the mainspring of our actions.” pp 68 …
… “Under purity of mind we include the careful and constant control of our thoughts and memories, by prudently excluding all that is unnecessary, frivolous and vain, and by gradually building up a continual recollection of God and His works. This is also one of the most important of all mortifications for those who would progress in the spiritual life and far more effective than the most penitential macerations of the flesh.” pp 69 …
… “Purity of action, which is often called purity of intention, in a continual watch over the motives which animate our actions and in a constant effort to act only for the love of God and according to His will. It demands a relentless war on that self love that is always seeking to inspire all our deeds.” pp 69 …
… “This perhaps may seem too hard and may lead only to discouragement. But perfection of this fourfold purity is not required for progress in prayer, for such perfection is synonymous with sanctity; we must, however, continually strive toward these dispositions of purity. We must desire this purity, we must pray for it, we must make earnest efforts to acquire it. But without a special help from God, it is unlikely that we should achieve a sufficient measure of it. There is, however, no limit to God’s goodness. and it is at this stage that He is accustomed to intervene, taking compassion on our infirmities.” pp 70.
empty oneself of every trace of belief in one’s “goodness”.