January 20, 2015


Once in a while in my wish to live a spiritual life I have wandered into a dead end or a blind alley. Usually it involves the wrong use of religion. I seek to do something appealingly religious while not paying attention what grace may be really inviting me to do or look at, which may be something less appealing on the surface, that is, to the flesh.

These moments have been very helpful and instructive for me, for they both warn me about my capacity to use religion poorly and leave me better able to discern. In this sense they are missteps that become gifts of grace, for through them God helps me grow in awareness and in the ability to see better what I am supposed to attend to.

Reflecting on a conversation with a confessor the other day, it became clear to me that my 'observance' of the Lent of Benediction was one of these moments. This is not to say that the blessing of God through the intercession of St. Francis isn't upon the friars who observe this 'Lent' according to the Rule we have promised, but that in my case, at this moment, what I imagined to be an inspiration to observe this 'Lent' was really a way to avoid paying attention to what grace is really inviting me to at this particular moment in my story.

The journey on which being a disciple of the Lord sets us is not always so easy and nor is it even pleasant insofar as we have not been delivered from our addiction to comfort and easy consolations. It is all too easy--and indeed the world invites us to this constantly--to self-medicate rather than seek the true health that is our salvation. And religion can be one of these false medications as much as any other created thing that the flesh can learn how to use wrongly.

And so I gratefully let go and try to begin again to be attentive to what grace invites.
Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 45)

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