Wednesday 16th October 2019

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A Book Review…. Falling In Love With God

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By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY

Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God: How to Walk with Him Daily and Dwell in Friendship with Him Forever, by Kilian J. Healy (Sophia Institute Press, 127 pages, paperback). Available at www.sophiainstitute.com or call 800-888-9344.

This version of Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God is a reprint of a book originally published in 1948. It was written by Fr. Kilian J. Healy (1912-2003), a Carmelite priest who rose to become the prior general of his order, and was also a voting member at the Second Vatican Council.
In essence, the book is a call for all believers to respond to God’s love by seeking to live in His presence, in the light of the spiritual traditions of the Carmelite Order and particularly the teachings of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila. It is divided into four parts which focus respectively on: how we can develop our friendship with God; how we can experience His presence; how we can begin to walk with God daily, and finally, there is a section detailing relevant prayers.
The book begins by pointing out that, quite often, it can be difficult for us to have the right attitude toward God, that is to see Him as a supremely loving Father — rather, we can see Him mainly as a being to whom we owe a duty of honor and obedience. Fr Healy claims, though, that what we should really be aiming for is to “fall in love with God,” in the sense of thinking of Him continually and doing everything we can to please Him.
As he says, it is the case that over the centuries innumerable souls have done precisely that, and in fact, “Everyone, young or old, strong or weak, can love. But in this world, love is bound up with giving; it entails sacrifice. The highest kind of love means self-offering. Jesus told us this: ‘Greater love than this no man hath, that man lay down his life for his friends’.”
The author cautions, though, that this love is not something that will develop overnight — it is something that takes time, because “it is a love of friendship — wishing good to another. It grows in proportion as love for self decreases.” And this friendship is a supernatural one, which begins when we are baptized.
God has done everything he could to show His friendship for us in sending His only-begotten Son into the world in order to save us from our sins, and so that we might find it easier to know and love Him.
As our friendship with God grows, we begin to think as God thinks and judge things according to their eternal value. The ultimate aim is to will as God wills, to have the same mind, desires, and affections, and so establish a real and lasting friendship with Him.
Although we cannot think of God all the time, “it is quite possible to think of God and be actively conscious of Him frequently throughout the day,” that is to work toward the practice of the “presence of God.” This practice can take many forms such as using the imagination to picture God before us, or having a picture of Christ or other religious symbol near us, so that we can look at it from time to time, or alternatively, in prayer to raise up our minds and hearts to God.
But it is not only a question of thinking of God, but also of thinking with Him, so that we are attracted to Him, and can speak intimately with Him. This in turn will lead us away from sin and worldliness. But to make progress in this practice we must have a desire to want to live in God’s presence, and we must also pray that we persevere in this desire.
Fr. Healy describes this process as “a short and direct way to intimacy with God.” He cautions, though, that it is short but not easy, since it requires us to develop our intellect and will, and also our affective powers. God’s grace, though, will help us to become more generous, and gradually this practice will become easier.
We can make progress in intimacy with God by elevating our minds to Him through the visible things around us — that is, to see God in creation. But that doesn’t necessarily mean spectacular things since God can also be found in the commonplace, and indeed our aim should be to see God in everything.
However, not only must we search for God, we must also listen to Him once we have found Him, and that happens primarily in prayer. But if we hurriedly rush through ready-made prayers without pausing to listen to God we are not praying well, and not giving Him a chance to speak to us by inspiring holy thoughts and desires within our hearts. And we also have to be aware of how God can speak to us through the varied circumstances of our everyday lives.
The author points out that one of the easiest ways to live in God’s presence is to look upon Jesus, His Son, since it is through the humanity of Christ that we can find ready access to union with the Divinity. In fact, union with Jesus should be the purpose of our life, and we find this union in looking upon Him with love and in trying to please Him in all things.
To this end, as St. Teresa of Avila advised her sisters, it is very helpful to meditate on the life of Jesus. God is also present within us, and focusing on that fact is another way to union with Him.
This requires a daily effort if we are to make progress in thinking about Him and in trying to please Him, but if we make a good morning offering, we will actually be offering ourselves and all our actions to God the Father in union with Jesus crucified. The problem is that quite often our morning offering becomes an isolated prayer, whereas it is meant to be a springboard by which we offer up the whole day to God and do everything in union with Him.
In practice, the morning offering should be renewed frequently during the day, and it is by this means that we can become more Christ-like. But for this to happen, this continually renewed prayer really needs to come from the heart, that is, we must have a determination to perform all our actions of the day for the love of God.
We can also offer ourselves to God through the Mass, but again this needs to be an offering which comes from the heart if it is to really change us. That is, there has to be a union between ourselves and Christ, who is the Victim on Calvary and in the Mass.
We can likewise renew our offering through prayers such as the angelus, by which we can unite ourselves to the offering our Lady made of herself to God. Similarly we can continually offer up short fervent prayers or aspirations to God.
We can tell if we are really living out our morning offering in our lives if we become more patient, more accepting of trials and setbacks, and of the general inconveniences of life.
Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God is a book with a deceptively simple message, but one which in reality is very powerful. Anyone who wants to deepen his prayer life and union with God will surely find it very helpful to do just that.

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(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published later this year — details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk.)

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