Sunday, May 13, 2012

The First Cut is the Deepest

In my last post I spoke about spiritual pride and how easily I got caught in this trap during my early walk with the Lord. I wasn't kidding about being devastated when He revealed to me that I was about as far from a saint as one could be. When the Lord first starts performing surgery in this area, the first cut is the deepest. By deepest, I mean most painful. Why? Because it's performed without anesthesia. Or with very little anesthesia.

Humility is God's anesthesia and when one has very little of this virtue, the divine surgery hurts tremendously. I was depressed and it bordered on despair. Here I was thinking I was giving my all to the Lord and He was dissatisfied (or maybe He wasn't but it sure felt this way).

I mean, what a waste! Here I was determined to pray an Our Father or a Hail Mary for every single person on this earth (and well on my way to doing so) when the Lord stopped me dead in my tracks! My Pieta book with the series of prayers to be said daily for months on end, plucked from my hands! My Rosaries, my novenas? Poof! Gone in a flash!

"I prayed that whole darn book over and over for nothing, Lord?"  (Well, I never actually made it through the whole year of St. Bridget's prayers though I sure as heck tried more than once.)

"And what about the six billion Hail Mary's I was well on my way to doing?! Dust?"

This was the first time I was booted off my throne and I wasn't liking it one bit.

"I suppose the Perpetual (man, that thing took forever)  Novena for the poor souls is off too?"

Prayer had become a "fig leaf", not a conversation with God.

In truth, the Lord was doing me a great kindness by teaching me you can't buy your way into heaven. Not only that, He was showing me "my" Rosaries, "my" Novenas, "my" way bore little resemblance to His way. His way was grace and I had a lot to learn in this area. I had to learn to pray with the heart and that the power in prayer stems from the Person, God,  behind the prayer,  not from the prayer itself. Added to that, I never shut up. Silence is an integral part of prayer; it's rude to do all the talking.  Listening matters.

Prayer is good. Novenas are wonderful. But following the leading of the Holy Spirit is the best. I DO still pray the Rosary and Novenas...but not for the same reasons.

"So Lord, how about the three day warning before my death? Is that one still a go?"  Lol. (Those who have read the older Pieta books will know what I mean ;)


  1. My dear friend you said it best when you said, "...following the leading of the Holy Spirit is the best." Amen to that.

    "Humility is God's anesthesia..." So true. Very painful as you stated if the syringe is not full of humility. Ouch!

    Great post dear one! Blessings and much hugs.

  2. Definitely! I might have gotten into the Guinness Book of World records for praying nonstop but I never would have shut up long enough to hear the Lord :)

    I actually like the Pieta Book. It's beautiful, but I was trying to earn my way into heaven which never works of course.

    God bless you, Grace! Hugs to you too!

  3. Mary, this brought back memories of my early days...and stacks of prayer cards to get through each day :)

    I love your great analogy of humility being God's anesthesia. So true!

    I want to thank you again for leaving such a beautiful and heartfelt sharing on my blog. I had to read it several times, because there was so much contained therein. I hope you saw that I did reply...but was so deeply touched by all you experienced that it took a couple of days to find words....

    Love you, dear Mary, and a Most Blessed Mother's Day!


  4. Three day warning?

    I suppose He gives us a warning EVERY DAY of our lives ... however long it is.

    God bless you, Mary.

  5. I sooo remember this book! I *think* I made it through St. Bridget's prayer once LOL!

    It is through Carmel that I learned to *let go* of attachments to devotions and novena. They serve a purpose, yes...but there is a time and place. The Holy Spirit will lead us to the best prayer that will help us on our journey to the Lord...and union with Him.

    Have a blessed day~Theresa

  6. Mary you are too funny! Love your sense of humor. Huggies.

  7. Patricia,
    Yes, I saw your reply :) Your story touched me deeply and mine just poured out after reading yours. Probably because there is still some pain there for me, too. It's very hard for woman to go through this, as you and Theresa (and many other woman know). I just wanted to hug you when I read your story.

    God bless!

  8. Victor,
    I suppose He does :)

    Have you ever seen this booklet "The Pieta"? I can't find mine but there was something in it that said if you prayed a certain prayer God would let you know ahead of time when you die. You can bet I prayed this prayer with great ferocity! Only to realize years later that I could care less about getting a three day (or whatever it was) notice about my death. I mean, let's face it, we die a million "little deaths" to self in our lifetimes...the final one should be a snap.

    God bless!

  9. Theresa,
    I don't know how you managed to make it through :) I sure tried though!
    Does the *let go* mean you got the message about the book by the same name that I thought you'd like? I posted it on my site the last time you commented but I forgot to pop over and put it on your site too. Great read! Reminded me so much of the "Practice of the Presence of God" and I know you liked that one.

  10. Grace,
    I love your sense of humor, too! You had me laughing up a storm last week! God bless you, my friend :)

  11. Hi Mary,

    If I had a three day warning of my impending death I'd probably have a heart attack and die !!!

    Besides, three days is not enough time for me to finish my stash of chocolates. I'm not leaving it as an inheritance to anyone.

    Seriously though, (I haven't seen the book Pieta), it worries me a little when books or prayers promise something such as this. It makes non-Catholics question our Faith and religion.

    If we all prayed that prayer and got a three day warning then (technically) we could do what we want and repent in the last three days.

    A few years back, on the 150th Anniversary of the Apparition at Lourdes, the Pope is reported to have said that if any one visits Lourdes in that year they'll get time off Purgatory. I don't know if it's true he said it ... but again it makes others question our Faith.

    God bless.

    (Hey ... has anyone seen my chocolates?)

  12. You can't take the chocolates with you, Victor. Besides, since you don't have the Pieta you didn't get to pray the prayer so you don't get the three day warning I'm sorry to say ;) No three day warning means your chocolates will be up for grabs. Do you want my address? No sense wasting good chocolate, is there?

    The interesting thing about indulgences is that they carry a certain point that people prefer to ignore these days: there must be no attachment to venial sin. This pretty much wipes out the chances of a plenary indulgence for most of the population, doesn't it? Still, it's a beautiful thing to pray for the souls in Purgatory. I feel God is very indulgent when it comes to them and overlooks a lot :)

  13. Mary,

    I don't understand the last bit you said.

    " ... there must be no attachment to venial sin. This pretty much wipes out the chances of a plenary indulgence for most of the population ..."

    What do you mean? If someone prays an indulgence for a number of days, and then dies with a venial sin, then the indulgence doesn't count?

    I didn't know that. So ... what's the point of indulgences if we all have venial sins anyway?

    Now you're getting me really confused. It's difficult enough being Catholic!

    God bless.

  14. Mary, sometimes I don't know what I enjoy and learn from more-your posts or all of the comments!

    Like you, several years ago God brought a comeuppance upon my soul that left me near despair as well. I can so relate! So glad that he lifted our spirits once again so that we could learn a lesson of humility and then continue to work toward a joyful and loving obedience to His will. (Still working on it, actually. Don't know if I'll ever attain it, but I am filled with hope.)

    I grew up with the Pieta prayer book in my hands and then, for reasons like Victor mentions, I cast it aside as too good to be true. Still, there are some beautiful prayers within its pages and I continue to carry one with me at all times. You never know when you might need to pray the three beautiful prayers over a dying person. I don't remember the part about the three day warning before you die. Like anything, it's a matter of faith, isn't it? If we live our lives with a hatred toward venial, and of course mortal, sin and then pray the prayers believing that God will always love us and forgive us when we fall, then all prayer is good prayer regardless of what promises we might hold on to as a result of that prayer.

    Mary you are so smart and I learn a ton from you! I love what you say about praying from the heart and about silently listening to God speak. Thanks for you fabulous blog!

    And Victor-I'd be happy to inherit your chocolates when you go, but I'm sure you'll be with us for such a long time that they will all have gone stale by the time I would get my grubby hands on them!

  15. Victor,
    Now I'm confused too :)

    Okay, I'm going to be honest here, I used to have an Indulgence book and during my 6 months as "super saint of the century" I'm pretty sure I did them all (well, most anyway). It's not necessarily committing 1 venial sin that changes the Plenary Indulgence to a Partial Indulgence (this means no get out of jail free card just less prison time), it's "attachment" or deliberate venial sin that makes the Plenary Indulgence (get out of jail free card) null and void. For instance, does a person have to confess the same sins at every confession? Then they probably still have an "attachment" to certain sins.

    In other words, I think you have to basically REALLY be a saint to gain a Plenary Indulgence. I used to do them for the souls in Purgatory because I figured that God wants them in heaven with Him so much that He probably overlooks our stinkiness for their sake :) Wouldn't you think so? I couldn't imagine God giving a Partial Indulgence to one of the souls in Purgatory simply because it's no fault of theirs if someone isn't a saint yet.

    Once I learned I was not super saint of the century I stopped thinking about indulgences and tried to focus on love.

    Here's an example of an indulgence- this ones for Divine Mercy Sunday:
    a plenary indulgence, granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!");

    A partial indulgence, granted to the faithful who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.

    Confusing? Definitely.

    An easy way to solve all this?

    Martyrdom (lol!)

    All kidding aside, I truly believe it's all about love. Jesus said to St. Dismas, "This very day you will be with me in Paradise."

    Your post explains more about this than the whole mountain of words above :)

    Still, I have a weird sense of humor so I couldn't resist writing this!

  16. Anne,
    I'm still working on it too. It takes a lifetime.

    I love the prayers in the Pieta too. I think they are beautiful. There's one about storms that gives me shivers every time I read it because the words are so powerful. I scaled back my prayers because I was driving God (and myself) crazy. Probably everyone else too :)

    As you say,it's about faith. Praying with the heart and trusting the Lord. Every person is unique and God draws them by different means. God knew certain longterm prayers (like St. Bridget's) wouldn't be good for me because of the problem I was having with scrupulosity at the time. The worst thing a scrupulous person can be given is a long list of prayers :)

    Yeah, we won't get Victor's chocolates but that's okay.. (So long as they aren't Belgian chocolate, that is.)

    God bless you, Anne!

  17. Mary,

    After reading your post, the first thing that came to my mind was the get-out-of-jail-free cards too! I can see you and Victor have been discussing indulgences. It was such a disappointment to find out they all depend on my disposition. I had to really and truly hate sin so much I couldn't contemplate committing even a tiny venial one. Well, I've never been able to do that. Maybe chasing indulgences takes us away from what we really should be doing: trusting God and doing His will.

    Have you ever said the St Joseph's Holy Cloak Novena, Mary? I was almost the whole way through that when Thomas was born. Can you believe I sat in my hospital bed, tears pouring down my face, reciting that day's novena prayers thinking if only I finish the novena, Thomas will live? As if God works that way! But I was desperate.

    Great post Mary and a great discussion too!

  18. Mary ... and Anne,

    If this was not a serious subject I'd write a humourous post about it.

    Imagine meeting St Peter face to face. He looks at his book and says: "Aha ... you prayed this indulgence. That's a week off Purgatory for you. You also prayed this one ... but you did not finish it. So I'll cancel the week you've just earned. And I notice you ate meat on three Fridays ... that's an extra three weeks you'll spend in Purgatory ..."

    And so on.

    Life is confusing enough without the Catholics making it more so.

    I reckon St Peter will judge me on what I have done throughout my life and the amount of chocolates I've left behind.

    Don't worry. Mine are not Belgian. They're Cadbury's - which is American.

    God bless.

  19. Sue,
    I couldn't resist the "get out of jail free" comment :) I know that Purgatory is a good thing and not a "jail sentence" but I can't help but think of these things in human terms. I do understand that Purgatory is a grace and blessing from a loving God for those whose sanctification was not completed here on earth.
    I'm with you on the "I haven't been able to do that" part. I confess the same sins over and over in the confessional.I liked the -Maybe chasing indulgences takes us away from what we really should be doing: trusting God and doing His will. Good point!

    No, I don't think I've ever said the St. Joseph's Holy Cloak Novena but I have no doubt that St. Joseph was interceding for you with all his might. You were grief stricken and rightly so. I actually did something similar during my ectopic pregnancy many years ago so I know that feeling of desperation. I didn't have Michaela yet at the time so I was extremely depressed at losing this baby. I just wanted children so much and it hit me hard.

    Thanks for your comment, Sue!

  20. Victor,
    Ha! Ha! Good one! Maybe you should do a post about it. Loved the St. Peter comment:)

    Cadbury's are yummy!

    I came across a good article about the truths and myths of indulgences. Here's the link :
    It kind of puts indulgences in their proper perspective and explains why and what the Church teaches on this subject.

    God bless!

  21. Mary,

    Great link. Thank you.

    I WILL do a post about meeting St Peter. On my Blog shortly.

    God bless.

  22. I was hoping you'd say that :) Your comment about St. Peter cracked me up!

    God bless you too.

  23. The Pieta prayer book is actually online, if you google it.

    That booklet fed into my scrupulosity issues for a few years. Now that I'm kinda-sorta aware of my scrupulosity issues, I can have the book around without getting wrapped around the axle about everything. :-) I still say some of the prayers, but it's more a matter of me going and getting the book, praying the prayer, and being done.

    But the St Michael chaplet is in that book, and I say that one every single day because I love it. :-) (I have it memorized now, though.) I will always be grateful to that book for having the St Michael chaplet.

  24. Great article. Funny comments. Made me day!

  25. Jane,
    I can relate! As scrupulous as I was, there was NO way God was going to allow me to finish off the year of St. Bridget prayers ;) He wants us to live in love, not fear, and scrupulosity is both fear and pride based. Pride based because it depends on self, fear based because the person feels the need to "earn" heaven and misunderstands the love of God who desires heaven for everyone.

    I love the St. Michael chaplet! The Pieta contains many beautiful prayers - I just have to stay away from certain ones. God has made great strides in healing my scrupulosity issues but I still avoid prayers that may reignite my tendency toward this.

  26. Colleen
    Did you apply for the three day death warning? Lol! Victor has a funny post up right now about this sort of thing. God bless!

  27. Which one is the three-day warning before death?

    I really liked the one in the St Bridget prayers that said you'd be joined to the choir of Seraphim. I thought that was Teh Awesomer :-) But yeah, I couldn't finish the year of prayers either.

  28. Jane,
    I'm not sure. It's been quite a while since I've read it. I'm pretty sure it's in there though. I'll see if I can locate my Pieta and see.

    A year is pretty tough. I'm not sure the Seraphim would want me in their choir anyway ;)

  29. Mary, I have the Pieta booklet and it's a good thing to have around, but if we go after numbers rather than fervor, we're sunk. Detachment from the world is something I work at constantly, replacing attachment to worldly things with, I hope, attachment to God. The more attached we are to God, the more we are able to detach from our favorite sins. A lot of times I just have to plop myself down in the hands of God and hope for the best because I am so inadequate. This was a great post.

  30. Thanks, Barb! I usually just have to plop myself in the hands of God too:) I seem to be a slow learner. I guess God doesn't mind too much (at least I hope).

    Yeah, I was definitely sunk!

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