"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" ~Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It was six months ago when I wrote about how I wanted to go DEEPER into self-acceptance in 2011 and how I was going to use St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Four Degrees of Love and the assistance of my spiritual companion for the year, St. Teresa of the Cross (Edith Stein,) to help me along my journey into the DEPTH of my soul and into the heart of self-love. It's often all too easy to forget about our goals and desires for our spiritual growth when we get caught up in day to day living and when the challenges come along it's all too easy to cast aside those goals as unimportant and meaningless, to give up without a fight when the going gets tough. Sometimes it takes a major event to cause us to wake up and listen to God's voice, His call for change in our lives or for acceptance of our lives as they are.
So I'm surprised that I "missed the boat" so to speak at the time that I wrote it, but yesterday's post, Get Out of the Boat, about my friend Bishop-elect Hying, is prophetic for his life it's true, yet it is also prophetic for my life, for I see that I, too, am called to step into the vast DEPTHS of God's love in new and more meaningful ways through the simple continuation of my very ordinary life.
As Fr. Don steps out of the boat and into the DEEP of the episcopacy, the ripple effect of his wake will bring his touch to many, many more lives; and at the same time, it will possibly leave a hole in the boat where his life touched mine. Unless I want to sink with the ship I will need to step out into the DEEP as well. Could this major change in the life of my friend be God's way of calling me to become ever more serious about my spiritual goals? Could the fact that this call from God is occuring during the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus be His gentle way of telling me that the DEEP into which I am to enter is the DEPTH of His great love for me and to there discover the opportunity to take another step into St. Bernard's Four Degrees of Love? And so I revisit my prayer from the cusp of 2011~~
O God, on this threshold of a new year, a year in which I want to go DEEPER into knowledge and love of myself so that I may grow DEEPER in knowledge and love of You, I ask You to guide me, slowly, patiently, gently into the DEEP where I will openly receive every good gift which You desire to bestow upon my weak and fragile heart, even the gifts which don't feel so good at first, those that might cause me pain in the growth. Open my heart to love of self for Your sake, not for mine. And along the way, when I stumble and fall, as I am sure to do, remind me that I am not a failure as long as I remember to take all of my efforts and place them into Your loving hands as an offering of my self, the very self that You have always loved. Amen.
~~and I see that He has answered that prayer, gently leading me into the DEEP so gradually that I barely noticed it. Surely I have grown into a DEEPER self love, and thereby love of God, through continued attendance at daily Mass, through returning to daily exercise and healthy diet, through greater service to my neighbor with work in the pro-life effort, through DEEPER devotion to the Eucharistic Lord and the Blessed Mother with my involvement in Roses for Our Lady and through DEEPER service to the Church in promoting and praying for Vocations and Priests with the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests.
"The limitless loving devotion to God, and the gift God makes of Himself to you, are the highest elevation of which the heart is capable; it is the highest degree of prayer. The souls that have reached this point are truly the heart of the Church."
And now, seeing that His time is right (for with Him it is always right,) He bids me to get out of the boat of comfort and complacency in which I've perched for far too long, and so I close my eyes, take a DEEP breath, the very breath that Christ breathes into my soul, and I plunge in to the DEPTHS of His loving heart where my prayers and good works can be magnified and my love and acceptance of self can move ever closer into the final stage of St. Bernard's Four Degrees of love; love of self for God's sake.