I have realised recently how far short I fall of God’s standard. There are a lot of young Catholics and a lot of recent converts at the church I attend, and so many of them are so holy compared to me. I know I screwed my life up before I became Catholic, but had thought I’d made a new start.
I’ve recently fallen back into sin, and have realised that I never really dealt with the attachment to some sins. I had resolved not to sin today, but I hadn’t really come to terms with the thought that I wouldn’t sin EVER again, and I still don’t know if I have come to terms with that. I haven’t put my sins to death, they’re just sleeping. There are also venial sins that I have kept on and on committing.
I have especially realised, since I started a relationship, that I am still putting me first, not others. I might occasionally, even often, do things for others, but it’s still for my plan, and when I feel like, I’m not really putting God first.
How do any of you get to that place in grace where you are able to leave these selfish desires and attachments behind, and focus always on what God wants? I really want to be like that, but yet it makes me sad to think that that’s all my life is going to be. There’s a side that still really wants to live for myself, not because it will satisfy, but because ‘freedom’ is so addictive. I know, and have even felt and experienced, that the true freedom of God is better, and I can say all that in my head, but somehow not in my heart.
There’s an important concept you probably need to have explicitly in your mind. The Catholic term is “sanctification”. Other groups call it stuff like “justification” and such.
“Sanctification” means that God is making all of us holy, remaking us more in His image. Our baptism and the other sacraments of initiation help us to start the process. But we have to cooperate with God every day to keep the process going, and it’s extremely likely that it will take all our lives.
(You ever notice how those really pure saints who hardly ever sinned from childhood tend to die or get martyred young, too? Being already done with sanctification may be part of the reason for that.)
Obviously, it’s good that you yearn to love God more, to sin less, to orient your life totally towards God’s will, and to be more holy. But don’t beat yourself up if it didn’t all happen in a flash.
Use the example of others to encourage you, not to discourage you and make you feel like some kind of loser in the game of holiness. We don’t see our own gifts and failings and graces from God clearly, and we don’t necessarily know how bad off we were when we started. We certainly don’t know those things about other people!
Anyway, here’s your main question:
“How do any of you get to that place in grace where you are able to leave these selfish desires and attachments behind, and focus always on what God wants?”
Heh. Haven’t gotten there yet, myself. There are a lot of helpful books on the topic by saints. You might try The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis, which is not only very good advice but comes in bite-sized pieces, so you can work on different stuff every day. The Ascension of Mount Carmel by St. John of the Cross is about getting rid of attachment and getting more into love of God. St. Therese of Lisieux is very good on making small daily sacrifices to God, and thereby growing in holiness.
Of course, the really important thing is to pray every day, in whatever way is most natural for you; to give up small things voluntarily as a sort of secret fast and mortification; and to give alms to people who need it, though not necessarily monetary alms. Don’t try to kill yourself doing all this, and do consult your priest or someone wiser than me; but pretty much all the sources agree that prayer, fasting, and alms are how to get holy. (And stick to the Church, of course, since that’s the community Jesus established to do the sanctifying to us.)
Remember, too, that it’s God who will make you holy, not you. You are co-operating with Him, but He is doing all the real work. Don’t worry yourself as if it had to be all you.
Btw, it might not seem to you that you are making progress and becoming converted in heart. But actually, the fact you’re dissatisfied with your progress is a sign that God has made a lot of progress with sanctifying you. Keep going!
I’ll keep you in my prayers. It is hard and we are always human. Join the club!
Curtains of imperfection
Our God, it seems that all within me is a maze of curtains against the pure light of Your love. Those curtains, drawn aside, reveal drapes of faults in the dimness. These drapes too, when parted, allow illumination of other veils that were obscured in the darkness…And thus again, until wisps of curtained uncharity and unbelief are glimpsed everywhere within, only brushed aside temporarily in moments of grace to allow Your light to penetrate the deepest recesses of my being.
I discover that nowhere in my life is uncurtained to the light of Your pure love and truth. Even where I hope to find goodness is found veils of subtle sinfulness. Finally, rejecting the despair of Judas I turn to You with repentant Peter, in sadness mingled with trust. I know that You will bless my continuing struggle and prayer in the white fire of divine love that blazes sin to nothing.
I ask pardon of You whom I do not yet love, and forgiveness of anyone I love poorly. Merciful Lord please give recompense to others and Yourself for my sins and faults, and grant all that Your perfect love can give.
Thank you Trishie, you always make such poetic posts. Is this yours, or do you get these from somewhere? If there’s a book out there of these meditations, I’d like to get a hold of it, and if they are your own, I think you ought to publish a book!
I would recommend that you take some time in perhaps a few pages in outline form or even a journal and look over your life. List the sins you have committed. I would then set a time with a priest that you may have a good relationship with and or can seek one out. Together yall can meet and go over those sins, and why you did it.
I believe we must find out why we made that decision to sin and this is where we must start to correct it. Please note that this may be a long process, but God will see the effort in this and this will help grant you the grace you long for.
Thanks for this, I have had some counselling, and deliverance, from a good priest. That held me up for a few months, but then for some reason I thought ‘what they heck, I’m healed of it now, so it can’t do any harm’ and bam, back to the addiction to sin!
Problem is, and I’ve had this problem with secular counsellors before, I’m very self-aware and know exactly the reasons for why I act the way I do, but it’s as if I’m standing outside myself, as if the bridge between knowing and being motivated to change just isn’t there.
Or to put it another way, as if I have to make myself believe, keep convincing myself I believe with words, but don’t really have it sorted in my heart.
What you describe is “old habits” in my estimation. I had many “old habits” that I had to give up. I still have some, but it’s a journey and it can be a tough one. I, too am tempted to go back to “old habits” now and then. I just recall that it was a great freedom that I received to be free from them and I think why would I give up that freedom? Is it worth it? The answer always comes back, “NO!”.
To help me overcome my “old habits,” I sincerely asked Jesus to help. I was amazed that my request was granted on the first request! If you are sincere, I’m sure you can get the divine assistance I received, too. It’s up to Him of course, but don’t loose faith. If you stumble, get up and try again and again!
I am impressed with your anguish over this. It shows your love of God. As soon as I read it, I thought of St Paul. You have read it, but I think it is worth meditating on:
7:14 The Law, of course, as we all know, is spiritual; but I am unspiritual; I have been sold as a slave to sin.
7:15 I cannot understand my own behaviour. I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate.
7:16 When I act against my own will, that means I have a self that acknowledges that the Law is good,
7:17 and so the thing behaving in that way is not my self but sin living in me.
7:18 The fact is, I know of nothing good living in me - living, that is, in my unspiritual self - for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not,
7:19 with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want.
7:20 When I act against my will, then, it is not my true self doing it, but sin which lives in me.
7:21 In fact, this seems to be the rule, that every single time I want to do good it is something evil that comes to hand.
7:22 In my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but
7:23 I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body.
7**:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?
7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!** In short, it is I who with my reason serve the Law of God, and no less I who serve in my unspiritual self the law of sin’.
Jesus is the answer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner”. Keep saying it and trusting in Him. Paul struggled with sin so you (we) are in good company.
It is great the you worry so much about this, it really shows your faith and desire to please the Lord.
I think the answer is that many of us never overcome our selfish desires and attachments. It is a lifelong battle, with the grace of God, to prevent these desires and attachments from causing us to sin.
That’s the whole idea behind concupisence. Original sin inclines us towards actual sin. We need the grace of God and firm resolve not to sin.
Thank you, 'a handful of wildflowers", I call the meditations/prayers. I never meant to write it. Just began wishing to write a prayer to say each day for priests because it seemed I was supposed to pray for them as well as other souls. I didn’t mean to write more. But the insights and the crises of life impelled more, and it ended up with 20 chapters, each prefaced with appropriate bible quotes and falling into divisions like “Love God above all” “Love others as self” “Prayer” “Conversion” and so on. I never really knew what to do with it, though I need it sometimes, and the principle and prayers underpin my life.
Years ago my 19 year old son wrote about it, under its original title, “In ‘New Beginnings’ I believe God has given power to desire, and creative wisdom; and voiced it as clearly as that cry of the poor which pierces the clouds. Perhaps you should no longer say, ‘of what use is it to anyone.’ You received it, and it remains…Suffice to say, be content with ‘New Beginnings’, give it back to God, that He may be disposed to bestow the gift to another.”
His words surprised me, as there was no recent mention of my writings to him. His assurance was perhaps insight but probably arose from his love for me.
Now I just give them away when it seems appropriate…whether or not, and maybe sometimes they say something someone needs. I remember a priest saying about one thing I wrote, “you said what I have always believed but never could put into words.” I find that I identify with all the struggles and whatever of the posters, feel their difficulties as known experiences. I’m sure most of us feel like that. And that’s what I’m kind-of-saying when I post my prayers, that the person is not alone but understood and maybe there’s another way to see things or pray about them. I least like posting when it seems important to cut through the fog to what’s really happening, so it seems almost like you’re shaking someone, you feel concerned they might feel it’s a reproach. I’m sure most of us feel like that.
'A handful of wildflowers", I call the meditations/prayers. I never meant to write it. Just began wishing to write a prayer to say each day for priests because it seemed I was supposed to pray for them as well as other souls. I didn’t mean to write more. But the insights and the crises of life impelled more, and it ended up with 20 chapters, each prefaced with appropriate bible quotes and falling into divisions like “Love God above all” “Love others as self” “Prayer” “Conversion” and so on. I never really knew what to do with it, though I need it sometimes, and the principle and prayers underpin my life.
I just post them when it seems appropriate…whether or not…in case they say something someone needs.
The truth is that we’re always human. Keep trying…but don’t be too surprised about feeling self-centred. We have to make the quantum leap from our own consciousness and awareness, the only one we have, to make the choices for others and for God that are unselfish.
In Romans 7 :14-25, St Paul speaks of his desire to be holy.
**“I cannot understand my own behaviour”, **he writes, "I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and find myself doing the very things I hate." Wow! This is chosen apostle St Paul who was converted by a vision of Christ calling him **“Though the will to do what is good in me, the performance is not, with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do I carry out the sinful things I do not want.” “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” **
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul speaks again about his human wealnesses, relating that to prevent him from getting too proud (which can occur subtly if we see ourselves as nearly perfect) he was was given something in himself to make him remain humble. Jesus said to him “**My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness” **…and Pual’s response is that he will endure his flaws much as he will of course battle to overcome them, “for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am stong.” Our grace and strength, beauty and goodness, come from God.
In my weakness You are strength
Jesus, thank You for those who see my faults or misunderstand my motives and who thus reveal my need for conversion and healing. I repent my unworthiness, and ask that You offer me as gift to God in each broken moment restored.
Gather up my lost moments, Jesus! Cleanse and shape them with my sorrow merged with Your sacrifice. Burnish and set them with Your forgiveness, and illuminate them with Your love as treasures of witness, intercession, and atonement! Thus, make my flawed life into a gem of praise, service and delight for You in the Communion of Saints.
Praise to You, Jesus, who make treasure out of ordinary and fallen human beings!
“I live in a high and holy place, but I am also with the contrite and humbled spirit, to give the humble new life…I will heal and console him.” says the Lord God.” [Isaiah 57:15, 18]
“In my ‘little way every thing is most ordinary; all that I do, little souls must be able to do likewise. (Saint Therese of Lisieux) Her little way “is the way of Spiritual childhood…of trust and absolute self-surrender.”
“Upon every person God loves, in order to bring them to God’s bliss, God imposes something that is not a defect in God’s sight, but is a reason why they are humbled and despised in this world, scorned, mocked and cast out. This God does to prevent the harm they would suffer from the pretence and vanities of this wretched life, to make ready their way to heaven and to the state of eternal happiness. For God says, ‘I shall tear you away from your vain affections and vicious pride. Then I shall gather you, and make you meek and mild, pure and holy by uniting you to Me’.” (Revelations to Julian of Norwich)
i think i know how you feel. i was baptized and confirmed many years ago and made a decision not to go to church for many years. i wanted to be in charge of my own life i guess. i still had a relationship with God, but as long as i wasn’t in church, i didn’t really have to keep myself in check.
at the age of 18, i stopped going to the church where i had received a brief introduction into what christianity was about. by the time i was a teenager and after being confirmed, i was wrestling with a lot of issues and just became lost.
so i had many years where i wasn’t focusing on living a life with grace.
and then there are times i don’t want to sin, but then everything goes wrong and the next thing i know my life is a mess!
10 years ago, i thought i had better get spiritual again. sometimes for me it is more intellectual. i feel everyday that i don’t live up to God’s standard.
when i was younger, i really wanted to, but sometimes, i just feel like my life will never be where i am back in God’s graces again.
i converted this summer to the RCC. the only times i am really at peace is when i go to the adoration chapel. i look at younger people, and i think to myself how i wish i could go back and be that age again and start my life over. when we are older, it is harder to control those sins that we let get out of control for so many years. i wish God would put his hand on my shoulder and say, “this way, go this way and it will be okay”. i don’t know if i will ever get on the right path and be able to walk straight without stumbling.
anyhow, don’t know if these are the same things that you are struggling with, but converting for me has not been easy either. i haven’t given up yet though!
Before you beat yourself up too much, I’ll give you my philosophy on personal holiness. Each of us, at any given moment, is as perfect as we can expect to be BUT it is up to us to increase that holiness in the next moment. Be kind to yourself. God is.
And also,please don’t compare what you perceive to be your lack of perfection to the “apparent” perfection of others. There is no way we can tell this looking from the outside in.
Thank you all again. My only problem is, unlike St Paul, I don’t seem to have one thorn but many, my sins are all over the place, and there’s almost no area of my life where they don’t take over everything.