A Severe Grace

St. Josemaría, founder of Opus Dei and the Pri...

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I have met a confessor among the saints. A man so endowed with wisdom that his words pierce my aching soul. He writes with Clarity and intent. He is a fiery and virtuous father. St. Josemaria Escriva is a stern, loving friend. He writes with purpose, with clarity, and with intent. I just finished the first chapter of his work called The Way. His mind is masterful, he is brilliant, but you can see a life shaped in virtue, in the power of the cross, and in the sacrifice of a life wholly pleasing unto God.

I wanted to say that I am grateful for him, for his life. He is a harsh confessor, and his words correct me with severe grace. Time and again he helps me clarify my muddied thoughts, and I find myself filled with insight from a loving example of the life of Christ. He brings out things in me that are ugly to behold. He is filled with a godly wisdom, and his words are resplendent with the fires of holiness. Anyways, I wanted to share some of the quotes from the first chapter of The Way and offer my insights and experiences.

1 Don’t let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love.

With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the corrupt sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart.

I love this. I love how clear he is. I wrote something that will be published expounding on this saying at my other blog The Practical Catholic, in case you want to check it out.

I guess that what I’m learning in all this is prayer, and praise. I am learning to be caught in the arms of a correcting love. God is purifying me, and I rejoice because he purifies the ones he loves. He is chastening, pulling out all my impurities and faults, perfecting, purging. He is empowering me, he is asking me to sow love. He is asking me to burn the common things with holy light. He is asking me to be all flame* (See the bottom)

I know that in the above passage there is a lot of ‘you’ going on. My friend Skyler pointed this out to me. For those of you unfamiliar, these are personal addresses written by Escriva who introduces them as follows:

0 Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate their meaning. They are things that I whisper in your ear, as a friend, as a brother, as a father. We shall speak intimately; and God will be listening to us. I am going to tell you nothing new. I shall only stir your memory so that some thought may arise and strike you: and so your life will improve and you will set out along the way of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will become a soul of worth.

These are counsels for spiritual growth, and indeed I have grown. I have developed and matured a bit, but I want to continue to deepen in faith, in love for Jesus, in love for the people of God. Escriva reminds me of my Granddad, and I love him for that. He speaks words that my soul cherishes, and calls me into a godly manhood. Into a sacrificial and mature spirituality in the Christian faith.

5 Get used to saying no.

6 Turn your back on the tempter when he whispers in your ear: ‘Why make life difficult for yourself?’

So simple, so profound. Number 5 floored me with the simple power of it. How many times do I really say no? How many times doe I say no to myself or people or things that might not fit or are sinful? I think, not enough. I should get used to saying no. I loved this one. It has corrected me several times this week in terms of frustration, where I have simply said “No,” to whatever was trying to frustrate me and steal my sanity.

Number 6 is likewise amazing. This is not to say that I know all of these by heart, I don’t, but these are the ones that jumped out at me this week. Number 6 reminds me that the sneakiest temptation I face is the temptation of the easy path.  This seems to have been the temptation facing Jesus in the wilderness (which we talked about at small group this week, incidentally,) and is a great temptation indeed.

Patience has a way of making these two sayings make a lot of sense. The first addresses impatience in the sense of impulse, and the second of patience in the sense of longsuffering. St. Josemaria does not say “Pray and think about turning your back.” He is very clear and emphatic. He says, do it. There is no try. There is no do-over; there is no boundless grace to just keep screwing up. Grace if it is grace at all must save us from sin and make us righteous, or it is not grace.

I am learning this severe grace that harshly yet lovingly cultivates righteousness. Josemaria Escriva knew Jesus. I know this. His words are a bitter root, yet they soothe the soul like honey. His words are rough to the taste, healing to the bones. Jesus has worked through this servant, to teach me the spiritual power of everyday actions, the overwhelming eternal decisions that lurk in everyday life.

St. Josemaria has shown me along with many other things this week where I am still imperfect. I cherish these words, because they remind me that I am in the process, I am not all flame.

*Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’


2 thoughts on “A Severe Grace

  1. Love the title of this post, Severe Grace. It really got me thinking about the concept of how God bestows His grace on us. Does “severe” really need to carry it’s supposed negative connotation? Maybe not. The severe grace of God is often the variety that brings me to my knees in realization of my waywardness and repentance. Thank you for such insight, such encouraging thoughts.

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