Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Mixed Spiritual Signals

I feel like I've been living an odd double life lately. Several weeks ago I went on retreat and came home feeling very refreshed in spirit. I've been greatly inspired the writings of Elisabeth Leseur and Julian of Norwich. In the middle of the night I wake up and experience what I guess you could call "consolations": a sense of peace and joy, a desire to pray, the desire to forgive, material for fresh and fruitful meditation.

And yet, it doesn't seem like this spiritual goodness is bearing a lot of fruit in action. I'm as disorganized as ever. I can't seem to discipline my will to stay on task or to keep the kids on task with their lessons and work. Am I more patient and loving? Maybe. I don't know. My kids probably don't think so. Am I more present to my family? I don't feel like it. I feel checked out and immobile, unready for action, unwilling to enforce order, schedule, or basic routine. I am not the wife from Proverbs 31 who gets up when it's still dark and manages her family and spins her flax and clothes her charges and makes her own headcheese, etc.

In short, the consolations come without my exerting any effort, and though I am deeply grateful for them, I find that in matters which do require me to exert effort and discipline my will to do boring, routine, or frustrating things -- which is about 90% of my daily existence -- I'm slacking off, again. I'm not actually feeling the discontents of bootstrapping it at the moment, but I'm also not sure if I'm even kinda doing my work. Is there a benefit to being spiritually at peace if it doesn't lead to improvement in other areas of life? Am I making life better for my husband and children, or is this just like hogging all the chocolate? And yet I didn't ask for this gift, so God must know that I need it in one way or another.


Brandon said...

I seem to remember someone -- John of the Cross, maybe -- saying that one should simply ignore consolations, at least as part of one's broader spiritual life; if they are genuine, they'll do their work anyway, without any need to build on them, and they don't change anything you have to do.

Is the Leseur book good? I know practically nothing about her.

bearing said...

Yeah, for all you know the consolations you are receiving are not meant to spur you to action, but, you know, to console you about the feelings of inaction.

You are growing a new human being, after all. This is not nothing, and it takes a lot out of one.

Jamie said...

You know, not making your own headcheese makes you more like the Proverbs 31 wife than the alternative would. She wouldn't have any filthy pig parts in her kitchen, would she?

MrsDarwin said...


Elisabeth Leseur is excellent, practically and spiritually. Bearing has done some fine analysis of her writings recently, and I've found that her gentle way of responding to those who belittled her faith or made painfully ignorant remarks has crystalized something that I've been meditating on for a while: that only love changes hearts, no matter how cutting or waterproof argumentation and debate may be. I would like to use her Essay on the Christian Life of Women and her Little Essay on the Christian Life as a Confirmation preparation for my children in a few years. (I was particularly struck that she expected her essay to her niece to be read aloud to her, which is right up my own alley.)

And thank you for the recommendation of Julian of Norwich. We're reading the Short Text aloud right now.

bearing said...

I need to do some more explication of Mme. Leseur. If I was at home where my book is I would be doing some now, but instead I am working on one of St. Leo the Great's sermons.

Leseur is very much in the Salesian tradition, in my opinion. Very down to earth advice for people living in the world, who because of material comfort have to be vigilant against worldliness.

Brandon said...

I'll have to look into Leseur.

Julian is a treasure, without a doubt. You can practically pick a sentence at random and hit something profound, whether it's her pointing out that our highest prayer is God's own goodness, or that Christ is "full glad and merry" receiving our prayers and sets them to shine forever in Heaven's treasury, or that our two duties are to reverently marvel and to meekly endure.

Anonymous said...

Every season of consolation I experience has caused me the same wondering: "Am I hogging all the chocolate?" Of course, it's much more like God is giving me all the chocolate, which is wonderful and baffling too since he's knows me better than I know myself.

I found Fr. Joseph Langford's Mother Teresa's Secret Fire a wonderful (one among many, of course) tutorial for receiving and giving Love -- living in the heart of the Trinitarian Fire of Love -- from my weakness.

Aren't the consolations just kisses from heaven? And we know God really, truly does love us in the present as we are. Receive gratefully and BE in Him!

deMontfortFan said...

Mrs Darwin,

As you well know, Love is it's own end. God doesn't fuel us up with consolations merely so that He can get more work out of us.

Will these consolations have an effect in your life? Will they bear fruit in love and service? I suspect so, but it is unnecessary to demand that their harvest be realized immediately, today, this week.

And even if they produce nothing except spiritual delight, so what? We'd better get used to that--eventually, the Kingdom will dawn upon us and such delights will be our food and breath.

In this life, our failures live side-by-side, tares midst wheat, with strands of glory. In that sense, it is mixed messages. But the enemy is envious, and he enjoys spoiling consolations. Ignore his trollish provocations and let God have the last word.

Banshee said...

Consolations are spiritual milk.

I figure it's like when kids are eating a lot, but they haven't started growing yet. All of a sudden, the growth spurt starts and they start having to find new clothes and stuff, and they're all elbows.

You're still in the stocking-up stage. Next comes the annoying growth stage. Probably better not to ask what kind of growing you'll be doing. Suck up the milk; be grateful; don't dwell on it.