The urgency of St. John Paul II’s encouragement is echoed in the words below of his friend Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979), which are as incisive as they were in 1950 when Sheen wrote them. He reminds us that sometimes joy is buried layers deep in suffering and is purer for it. I hope his words lighten any burden you’re carrying this week, as we forge ahead together in deep joy and gratitude.
From Lift up Your Heart: A Guide to Spiritual Peace:
“Even the bitterest of life’s punishments are known to be joys in the making, rare spiritual treasures underneath their harsh and ugly appearances. At the beginning one loves God only for His gifts, for the emotions He sends us. He treats us, then, like a young woman who is being courted. If gifts are no longer given in such abundance after a true marriage has occurred, it is not because the husband’s love is less but because it is greater. For now he gives himself.
“It is not the husband’s gift that his wife loves, nor his compliments, nor even the thrill of pleasure she gets from his company. She loves him. The moment the lover is loved for who that person is, then the nature of the gift ceases to matter.
“Similarly, if God withdraws all sensible gifts, all natural happiness, it is only because He wants the union between the soul and Himself to be more personal and less dependent on His generosity. But God never takes away a natural gift without giving a supernatural gift in exchange. Souls do not always understand it, for in the beginning all values are material. It is only later that they see that the void they suffered when they lost some prized form of happiness was filled by a more spiritual insight.
“It will seem strange to the worldling, but even our enemies—even those who cheat or malign us—can become occasions for advancement toward union with God. All contradictions can be turned to good by those who have put their trust in God.
“Seeing the trial as issuing from the Divine Hand, one never has to wonder how to meet it, nor question why it came, nor seek defense against it. Each trial is an occasion for faith and an opportunity for virtue.
“Having put oneself in the deeper dimension of Divine Love, one knows as a child in a loving family knows that even what is not understood is done kindly and for the best. There finally comes a period of union with God when everything seems unreal except Divine Love. The soul in the midst of trials and aches becomes like an airplane flying—it follows the beam of God’s Will through the fog and mist.”
So beautiful, as I read this blessing, I felt God’s Divine Love stirring within me and I thanked God for all the times I did not understand His plan for my life. I also thanked Him for giving me the grace and courage to follow the Father’s Will. I love your picture of the pepper bush, because it showed how God can make us into a new creation in any season.God bless you.
Thank you for your beautiful thoughts.
Men sitting in bars on Milwaukee’s south side used to watch Bishop Fulton Sheen’s TV program in the 1950s. My father watched and he was an atheist. I was about twelve, then, and I watched. In his autobiography Sheen wrote that he was an altar boy when the bishop came to celebrate Mass. He was so nervous that he dropped a cruet which exploded like an atomic bomb when it hit the floor. After Mass the bishop came to the sacristy and asked him “Have you ever thought about becoming a priest?”
Ha! OK, back at you — I heard the Archbishop of Louisville tell the following story recently. He said, “Where I live, we have a little horse race every year. I got on the elevator there with a man who asked me, ‘Father, are priests allowed to bet?’ I said, ‘We’re allowed to bet, but we’re not allowed to win.’ Without hesitating, he answered, ‘So I think I may have a vocation.'”