If you’re looking for good spiritual reading that’s practical and accessible, you might want to try the works of Fr. Jacques Philippe. He has written many books, including one called Interior Freedom, in which he explains: “Every Christian needs to discover that even in the most unfavorable outward circumstances we possess within ourselves a space of freedom that nobody can take away, because God is its source and guarantee.” Interior freedom represents a shift in attitude, especially towards external circumstances that we find oppressive or personal failings against which we feel powerless. According to Fr. Jacques, we begin to grow in interior freedom when we accept the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves. This, he writes, is an essential condition for God’s grace to act in our lives.
Fr. Jacques acknowledges that truly unjust and oppressive circumstances sometimes do exist, and must be addressed. But he also says that the true source of our suffering often isn’t our surroundings, but our own selfishness and fears. Unless these things are acknowledged, and our hearts transformed by the Holy Spirit, we will always feel restless and desirous of escape from our perceived confinement. “People who haven’t learned how to love will always feel like victims; they will feel restricted wherever they are. But people who love never feel restricted.”
He uses as an example Therese of Lisieux, a modern saint to whom he has a great devotion. When he first visited the convent in which she lived Fr. Jacques was shocked by how small her world was. His surprise was due to the fact that “when you read Therese’s writings you never get the impression of a life spent in a restricted world, but just the opposite.” He attributes the paradox of a life confined to a tiny Carmelite convent and the breadth of her spiritual sensitivity to the wide horizons in which she truly dwelt: “those of God’s infinite mercy and her unlimited desire to love him.”
The reality in which we find ourselves these days includes the virus that has disrupted everyone’s way of life. Mercifully, we’ve been able to take advantage of the beautiful seasons of spring and summer to exercise and socialize outdoors. But as we enter into the shorter days of fall and the coming of colder weather that doesn’t permit long periods of outside leisure, we are faced with the likelihood of greater isolation in the smaller spaces of our homes. It is important, therefore, to consider the insight offered by Fr. Jacques, inspired by the example of St. Therese, and ask for the grace of a shift in attitude that allows us to enjoy the freedom of those who are loved by God. The Lord is always with us, even when we struggle with sadness or worry over our circumstances. By freely consenting to the reality in which we find ourselves, we allow the Lord to transform our hearts, and to experience the deep joy that comes with Christian hope, and being able to love God and our neighbor even while confined to the small spaces in which we are forced to dwell for a time.
We Stand With Christ
This weekend we will be announcing to the parish our participation in the We Stand With Christ capital campaign. This campaign was initiated by Bishop Caggiano in 2018 as a way to fund three new foundations that he established to ensure that the most important ministries of the local Church in Fairfield County will continue for years to come. The campaign also provides the opportunity for us to address some of the pressing needs of our parish. Please take a look at the information about the campaign provided in the bulletin this weekend, and stay tuned for more updates in the weeks to come. I hope you will consider joining those who have already generously supported the campaign and, through your participation, help to make the We Stand With Christ campaign a great success.