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Once I settle into the rhythm of reciting the prayer, my thoughts invariably fly off in every direction except toward Calvary where I intend them to go.
A Bit of Good Will and the Action of Grace
By Marian Friedrichs (Jan 15, 2008)
I've read that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening. Personally, I've always been a lot better at the talking part than the listening.
I try to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, but I rarely get past the second or third Hail Mary in a decade before I find myself pondering the details of my own life rather than Christ's or His Mother's. The same thing happens when I recite the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy every morning. Jesus told St. Faustina to meditate on His Passion while praying the chaplet, and I try to do the same. But once I settle into the rhythm of reciting the prayer, my thoughts invariably fly off in every direction except toward Calvary where I intend them to go.
That bothers me. Every relationship needs its share of listening in order to thrive. And in order to do anything worthwhile, I know I have to depend completely on God's wisdom and power. But how can He teach me if I don't listen? As one who tends to worry a lot, I often find myself fretting about what God might be trying to tell me that I am missing because all I hear is my own mental chatter.
Ironically, when I worry like that, I'm creating the exact problem that my anxiety is trying to get control of: I am depending entirely on my own abilities and forgetting that only God can perfect my soul. That's why I need this passage from St. Faustina's Diary: "In my interior life I never reason; I do not analyze the ways in which God's Spirit leads me. It is enough for me to know that I am loved and that I love" (293).
Those words bring up an important question for me: Is it enough for me to know that I am loved and that I love? I do know that God loves me, but sometimes I doubt the sufficiency of my love for Him. I often look at my actions that are supposed to express that love — prayer, works of mercy — and see that they are flawed by tepidity and self-centered motivations. These realizations make me wonder, Can I really claim to love God when my commitment to living that love is so imperfect?
Once again, St. Faustina helps me find answers, this time through her reactions to the knowledge of her own shortcomings. While it's true that she often describes feeling deep sorrow and remorse when she learns she has offended Jesus, St. Faustina also proclaims, "My happiest moments are when I am alone with my Lord. During these moments I experience the greatness of God and my own misery" (Diary, 289). Although it may seem incredible, we have to conclude from her words that the saint's greatest happiness and her most humbling self-awareness were the same experiences. I, on the other hand, spend a lot of energy either avoiding humbling experiences or suffering through them under the burdens of guilt and shame. I certainly can't call them my happiest moments, not by a long shot.
One of the most important differences between St. Faustina and me is her confidence that she was loved and that she loved. While we ought to examine our consciences, I don't think that my questions about whether I truly love God are healthy ones. Who, after all, would want me to fall into the discouraging conclusion that I don't love Him? Only God's enemy could want that. And only that same enemy could want any of us to doubt that He loves us. If we pray for the grace to resist the temptation to give any credence to doubts like those, the confidence that God will give us will enable us to look at our faults properly: as opportunities to allow God to purify us, heal us, and make our souls beautiful in His eyes. Saint Faustina was happy in the awareness of her misery because this awareness illuminated the perfection of God and the magnitude of how much He was ready to do for her.
Recently, I have started to try to meditate by sitting quietly every day for five minutes and closing my eyes to picture Jesus. (So far the picture is always the Divine Mercy image.) And to tell the truth, I haven't yet made it through the entire five minutes without my mind wandering. But I pray for the grace not to get anxious or upset when that happens. After all, my mind is human. It won't always do what it should. While I am learning to focus it better, I take courage from St. Faustina's words: "How very easy it is to become holy; all that is needed is a bit of good will ... When a soul loves God sincerely, it ought not fear anything in the spiritual life. Let it subject itself to the action of grace" (Diary, 291-292).
Marian Tascio is a writer and English teacher who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.