A major criticism that I have with Catholicism is the insurmountable amount of good advice.
While talking to my spiritual director he tells me to pray the Rosary, yet when I speak with acquaintances, they tell me to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Which is right?
Here I am a couple of weeks into Exodus90 and I’ve been struggling greatly with the requests of the program. For those unaware, it requires cold showers, detachment from pleasures, holy hours, and other lovely sufferings. Naturally, I seek my fraternal anchor’s advice as to what I should be doing in order to achieve proper asceticism because something wasn’t working. Here’s the advice that was given to me:
“I’d say humility in sin gives us the opportunity to cry out to God that we are weak and that we need His help. If you continue to do that, your heart will turn away from your own will for yourself and turn towards the mercy and grace of Christ. Every time we fall, it is an opportunity to encounter the mercy of God. Obviously, that’s tough without confession (I’m in India right now so finding a confessor is difficult out here), but you have scripture and you have prayer. I remember that encountering love and mercy in my sin was the greatest thing that helped me through them. Once I saw that I was loved, there was no need to be ashamed, and then there was no need to hide my weakness, and then, instead of trying to forget about it, I faced it head on, knowing how real His mercy and grace is.”
I was struck and amazed at his wisdom, not only because it was exactly what I needed to get back on my feet, but because I was seeking answers and he provided them in abundance. But this brings me to my main point. There is simply too much out there.
That same brother told me that much of his success in his own spiritual fights came in the form of words in a prayer book from the Order of Miles Christi. Great! I’ll order one and read the whole book by the end of night. But wait, I’m already committed Exodus90 and its practices which take up much of my already small amount of time. And shoot! Looks like I also forgot I was going to do that 33-day Consecration to Mary. Well actually that would only be after I made my Marian pilgrimage and experiencing a life-changing encounter. What about that Confessions by St. Augustine book that has been sitting on my nightstand for months? I’m beginning to think you get the picture.
Our faith has an abundant amount of materials and I’m often overwhelmed with the choices at my fingertips. Unfortunately, Christ never proclaimed the hierarchy of Catholic resources when he walked among us. Although it would seem like an error, there must be reason why he didn’t give a strict answer on such an important question, right? Another question I ponder is whether it is better for my soul to read X over Y or pray A over B? Are these choices given point values in the eyes of God? If not, are they all equal? I don’t expect to get an answer but it’s something I’ve been wrestling with for years because I desperately want to know what I need to do in order to increase my likelihood of going to heaven. Maybe all the books and prayers are mere distractions and I should be on the streets washing the feet of lepers instead. God only knows.
There is a quote/prayer from Thomas Merton that sums up the way I bet many of us feel and it simply involves a willingness and desire to please God. He states:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
I love our faith, no matter how confusing it can be at times. I know that the end is more important than all the means available. I mean this all with a light (if sometimes confused) heart. That said, if anyone in heaven desires to accidently misplace God’s grading scorecard, please send it down to my address and I’ll be sure to return it promptly, as soon as I read it…