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Restoring The Sacred… God Has A Better Plan For 2018

December 28, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES MONTI

For us as Catholics, the change of year that January brings is more than enough reason for some serious introspection. For the onset of a new year reminds us in no uncertain terms that we are a year closer to the grave and our eternal destiny.
Beyond all the lighthearted celebration on New Year’s Eve, there are the bittersweet memories of the blessings and sorrows, sometimes very deep ones, that the old year brought. And there is the realization that the New Year about to begin is as yet an impenetrable, unfathomable, and awesome mystery — that it will bring its own succession of joys and sufferings as yet known only to God. Perhaps we have made some plans for 2018 — God most certainly has made His. And His plans are always better than ours.
Unlike our plans, God’s plan encompasses all time and all places, as Fr. Paul de Jaegher, SJ, remarks in his work, The Virtue of Trust: “He [God] loves every syllable of this divine poem that is the universe; every note of this magnificent symphony, which is the history of the world” (The Virtue of Trust: Meditations, London, Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1933 edition, p. 133).
In His great master plan for 2018, God has given us each a particular part to play, a particular work. In fact, the best way to combat the dangers that are besetting the Church and the world in our time, to thwart the wicked plans of Satan, is to do what God has given each of us to do in fulfillment of His plan. In his reflection “All Men Have a Special Vocation,” the English Oratorian Fr. Frederick Faber (1814-1863) observes:
“. . . God loves every one of us with a special love. . . . I clearly belong to a plan, and have a place to fill, and a work to do, all which are special; and only my specialty, my particular me, can fill this place or do this work. . . .
“. . . We have each of us a vocation of our own. No man or woman on earth has the same. There has never been precisely the same vocation since the world began. It will never be precisely repeated up to the day of doom. No matter what our position in life may be, no matter how ordinary our duties may seem, no matter how commonplace the aspect of our circumstances, we each of us have this grand secret vocation. We are, in a certain inaccurate and loving sense, necessary to God. He wants us in order to carry out His plans, and nobody else will quite do instead of us” (Fr. Frederick Faber, Spiritual Conferences, London, 1860, pp. 399-400, 405-406).
A convert from Protestantism, Fr. Faber entered the Catholic Church just a month after Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and became one of the first novices of Newman’s Oratory of St. Philip Neri. So it seems likely that Fr. Faber’s reflection, dating from the 1850s, was inspired at least in part by the famous words of Cardinal Newman on this very same subject, which date from 1848:
“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission — I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. . . . . I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work. . . .
“Therefore I will trust Him. . . . He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me — still He knows what He is about” (Meditations and Devotions of the Late Cardinal Newman, New York, Longmans, Green, and Co., 1903, pp. 301-302).
Writing in a notebook as a seventeen-year-old teenager, the Italian lay mystic St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) recorded her thoughts and “New Year’s resolutions” upon the approach of a new year: “During this new year [1896] I resolve to begin a new life. I do not know what will happen to me during this year. But I abandon myself entirely to you, my God. And my aspirations and all my affections will be for you. I feel so weak, dear Jesus, but with your help I hope and resolve to live a different life, that is, a life closer to you” (The Autobiography of Saint Gemma Galgani, trans. Fr. William Browning, CP, Erlanger, Ky.: Passionist Nuns Monastery, n.d., p. 29).
Receptivity to the will of God is an essential dimension of our sense of the sacred. Our reverence for all that is sacred, for all that pertains to God — the recognition of who God is, and by contrast who we are — requires from us an admission of God’s supreme authority over us. Describing the fulfillment of the will of God as “the one thing necessary in the world,” the Irish maiden Venerable Edel Quinn saw this fulfillment as a calm and trustful surrender to God’s plans taken one day at a time:
“To serve the Lord in all that which happens, not to be preoccupied with the future, but to leave everything in the hands of God, abandoned to His will, taking every day and every moment of the day just as it comes. Faithful to what is predisposed by every moment, carrying out at all costs the will of God; in whatever difficulty to say: We have received graces from God. God knows better than we” (letter to Pierre Landrin, February 5, 1928, quoted in “Iudicio prioris Theologi Censoris…super scriptis Servae Dei Edel Mariae Quinn, tributis,” in Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Canonizationis servae Dei Edel Quinn . . . Positio super virtutibus, Rome, Tipografia Guerra, 1988, p. 12; notebook of Winifred Leavy, in ibid., “Summarium super dubio,” p. 428).
The concluding prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet describes the will of God as “love and mercy itself,” for God always does what is truly best for us.
Addressing the temptation of hopelessness that can arise from hardships in life, the Franciscan priest and martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe observed, “Does not God know everything? Is He not almighty? Does He not have in His hands all the laws of nature, and even all the hearts of men? Could anything possibly happen in the universe without His permission? And if He does permit it, could He possibly permit something that is not for our own good, for a greater good, for the greatest good possible?” (“Lack of Confidence,” 1932-1933, in The Writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, ed. Antonella Di Piazza, FKMI, Lugano, Italy, Nerbini International, 2016, volume 2, n. 1264, p. 2203).
In a homily that His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke delivered at a Mass for the Solemnity of the Annunciation that I attended last March, he remarked that God did not disclose to our Lady His plans for her all at once, but rather in stages across the course of her life. Our Lord acts with us in this way as well. Usually He makes known to us only what we need to know for the immediate future, what we need to do to fulfill His will for the present.
Of course God can and does communicate to us in the depths of our hearts what we are to do. But often He resorts instead to events entirely exterior to ourselves to steer us onto the right path. Reflection upon what the old year brought can also prepare us for whatever is to come. For in the old year there were events we could not possibly have anticipated or even imagined when the year began. Probably there were also events that left us wondering what God’s purpose was in permitting them.
Yet in His loving plans for us it is sometimes necessary for Him to keep us in the dark, as it were, for the time being, as to what His purposes are. There are even events in our lives that appear to have been nothing more than a “dead end,” the pursuit of a path that in the end seemed to come to nothing, or ended in apparent failure, that are in fact very much part of God’s plan for us. It is often by such events that God refines, prunes, and purifies our souls.

Discernment

In seeking to discern the will of God in our lives, to carry out His plan for us, there is, I believe, no better guide than daily Mass and Holy Communion. For Mass and Holy Communion make us familiar with the Lord, and attuned to the gentle promptings of His voice, like nothing else. In the sacred liturgy we come to God on His terms, not our own.
And in the daily Scripture readings of the Mass we will often enough discern a very personal message for us, something that speaks to what we are going through at this particular moment in our lives. We also ought to have frequent recourse to the Prayer of the Holy Spirit (“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful. . . .”).
It really does help us to perceive the inspirations of God.
In the next life, we will at last have the answer to all our questions as to the course God set for our lives here on earth, as Fr. Faber explains:
“In the far back of an unbeginning eternity we shall see a clear and special purpose for which God created us….This specialty decided our vocation upon earth. It fixed our place. It determined our time. It fashioned our work. All the mercies of our lives had their faces set towards it. Outward circumstances made a current which drew us that way. All our graces were in order to it. All our inspirations, like according notes in music, were a unity, and each sounded out of that eternal purpose, and seemed to call us on to its fulfilment”(Faber, Spiritual Conferences, pp. 420-421).

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