Monday, 23 March 2009

St Francis on Sadness

Well, we're back from our retreat, and it was a lovely time away. We spent some time discussing the ministry of lector with the rector and spiritual director who accompanied us, and had a time of lectio divina as well (meditating on
a particular scripture passage and sharing what God is saying to us through it). We also attended the monks' liturgy throughout the day, and I even managed to go to their first daily office (Vigil's) at 3.30 in the morning... though whereas they stay up when they're finished, I went back to bed! On top of their communal prayer, and the many guests who they welcome to the monastery, they have a farm from which they get much of their own produce: milk, eggs, even honey. It seems like a very wholistic and happy life that they lead, though not without hardships!

St Francis de Sales has been saying some wonderful things in the Devout Life lately. Today he talks about sadness:

The enemy takes advantage of sadess to tempt the good... [he] is pleased with sadness and melancholy, because he is sad and melancholy himself, and will be so for all eternity; and therefore he wishes everyone to be like himself.

Evil sadness troubles the soul, leads it into disquietude, gives birth to inordinate fears, causes a distaste for prayers, dulls and oppresses the brain, deprives the soul of counsel, of resolution, of judgement and of courage, and weakens her energy: briefly it is like a hard winter which takes away all the beauty from the earth, and benumbs all living creatures; for it takes away all sweetness from the soul, and makes her almost paralysed and powerless in all her faculties.

If you should ever find yourself attacked by this evil sadness, make use of the following remedies: If anyone is sad, says St James, let him pray; prayer is a sovereign remedy, for it lifts up the soul to God, who is our only joy and consolation. But when you pray, make use of aspirations and words, whether interior or exterior, which tend to confidence in God and love of him, as: O, God of mercy! O God most good! My loving Saviour! God of my heart!...

Vigorously resist inclinations to sadness, and though it may seem to you that whatever you do in such a time is done oddly, sadly and half-heartedly, yet do not omit to do it; for the enemy, who tries to make us weary of good works by sadness, seeing that we do not fail to do them, and that when they are done with repugnance they are more meritorious, ceases to trouble us any longer.

Sing spiritual canticles, for the evil one has often been forced to desist from his efforts by this means...

It is good to occupy oneself with exterior works and to vary them as much as possible, in order to divert the soul from what causes the sadness, to purify and warm the spirit, sadness being a passion of a cold and dry nature.

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