As we delve into the Gifts of Knowledge, Understanding and Fortitude, the Gifts most needed to persevere in hearing the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, we are grateful to our mentor, Fr. Jacques Phillipe from “In the School of the Holy Spirit”. We recall the critical points of praise and thanksgiving in all things for every past Grace up to this present moment and the need for the Virtue of Obedience in every single thing.
He next attacks the root cause of our struggles and why we fail to make progress in adapting our wills completely to God’s Will and why we spend so little time getting to know the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier! He states: “We can not receive the motions of the Holy Spirit if we are rigidly attached to our possessions, our ideas or our point of view”. Having made some progress in our spiritual lives, we think this statement can’t possibly apply to me……and yet it is that exact thinking that proves that we have far to go! In fact, we must first go through the “night of the senses” to be stripped of our attachments to material things, especially our tendency to need certain food and certain drinks and the comfort of excess entertainment from TV, people, etc….all those things we are subtly attached to and do not even think about, since they have become ingrained in our daily habits. But it is precisely these material things, which hold us back from hearing the Holy Spirit’s inspirations. Only God in His Mercy can help us overcome them by our desire to overcome them with His Grace.
Once God shows us those things we overly rely upon, He can begin the process of stripping those that block our advance in Love. Next, we must deal with the even more difficult attachments of our subtle pride and self love or the “night of the spirit”. Fr Philippe: “We are sometimes far more hampered in our spiritual progress by attachment to our ideas, points of view and ways of doing things (even spiritual things)…Such an obstacle is all the greater in that this kind of attachment often goes unnoticed, because it is obviously easier to be unaware that we are attached to our own will when what we want is good in itself. Since the object we are aiming at is good, we fell justified in wanting it with a stubbornness that blinds us; and we don’t realize that the way we want our idea (holiness) to come about is not necessarily in accordance with God’s plans. Our wisdom and God’s…(almost) never coincide perfectly…” This is why a spiritual director is necessary for anyone seeking to progress in the spiritual life. It is often only through a spiritual director that this blindness can be removed.
The overarching attitude we must have to progress in detachment is peace of heart, the peace that surpasses all understanding,; and this only happens if we set aside time for silence each day and refrain from all unnecessary words. We know from Scripture that God is not in the noise no matter how impressive it may be, but He is in the whisper. Fr. Philippe: “…the motions of the Holy Spirit are delicate touches that don’t make a great noise and can penetrate our spiritual consciousness only if we have within ourselves a zone of silence and peace. If our inner world is noisy and agitated, the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit (is)…very difficult to be heard.” One test to see where we stand is very simple: do we practice at least 15 minutes of mental prayer every single day? If not, we know we are NOT practicing the inner silence needed despite our good intentions. We often make excuses as to not having the time, or that vocal prayers are more important. We can indeed find the time for the Mass, the Rosary and our 15 minutes of mental prayer simply from the hours wasted each day on TV. Satan loves to convince us that we are already doing enough or that we must have more recreation time than we truly need.
True silence is an ability through God’s Grace to silence the whirlwind of thoughts in our mind that usually take up much of our day and to overcome our normal tendency to react quickly and negatively when something does not go our way. Fr. Philippe quotes the insight of St. John of the Cross, which we should read and reread often: “Take care to preserve your heart in peace, let no happening of this world upset it…Even if everything here below crumbled apart and all things were against us, there would be no use in upsetting ourselves over it, for that UPSET would bring us MORE HARM THAN BENEFIT.” (emphasis added).
The Great Doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross, gives us the absolute key….every single thing that has or will happen to us is caused or permitted for our greater eternal glory by an infinite, loving God! So, how can we possibly react negatively? When we invariably do, because of weakness, let us immediately beg forgiveness from the Divine Mercy of God and with great trust jump into the arms of our Mother and run with her to our loving Father knowing He will forgive and strengthen us! Holy Spirit we beg You to let this TRUTH be emblazoned forever in our memory, our intellect and our will, so we may hear all Your inspirations to be Holy as You desire us to be Holy!
May it be done to us more securely and more quickly than EVER before through the power of the Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!