Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

04 October 2012

Void As Directed

A friend of mine interested in Francis of Assisi was directed to read "The Little Flowers of Saint Francis" by Brother Ugolino.  My friend relayed a story that reveals Francis' audacity--a characteristic not often associated with the soul whose statue is consigned to the garden.
And when Friar Ruffino had come unto him, he told him in order all the temptation wherewith he had been tempted by the demon, both within and without; and he [Francis] showed him clearly that he who had appeared unto him was the devil and not Christ, and that on nowise ought he to consent to his suggestions; "but when the devil shall say unto thee again: 'Thou art damned,' do thou answer him thus: 'Open thy mouth, for now I would void my dung therein'; and this shall be a sign unto thee that he is the devil and not Christ, that when thou shalt have thus answered him he will immediately flee away...."
There is a trace of the juvenile ruffian's excitement upon hearing such things from the mouth of Saint Francis.  Why not give the Taunter of the Virtuous a little of his own?  Convinced of the power and mercy of the Redeemer, we can proceed boldly through trials.

On the basis of this story, from Church history, and from personal experience, I would promote the venerable practice of spiritual direction.  We ought not proceed alone in the spiritual journey.  That is foolish, because the Tempter is cunning.  He knows our weaknesses and will make the best use of them toward our spiritual, moral, mental, and emotional collapse.  That's the best he can do--and as far as God is concerned, it's quite a lot, given the great freedom which He has granted us.

Like Friar Ruffino in the story above, we do well to reveal ourselves to someone whom we trust with our very lives.  Now there are reputable websites such as Catholic Spiritual Direction, but navigating these sites does not substitute for the actual practice.

At the very least, do you have someone (not everyone, and not just anyone) in your life to whom you grant bold access to you, without fear of judgment but with total freedom for charitable candor?

Twelve-step groups feature the practice of "sponsorship," which follows the same basic idea.  The sponsor leads the sponsee through the twelve steps of their program of recovery, and in many instances, the relationship affords both parties a certain transparency with regard to their attachments, feelings, etc.     In spiritual direction the transparency is not meant to be mutual; according to the above link, it's not meant to be several things that it's mistaken to be!

In marital practice, one's spouse often fulfills similar functions ("spouse" and "sponsor" are etymological cousins), as one's very best friend and aide to heaven.  But even in this relationship the walls can go up, one brick at a time, resulting in the rather dramatic line often posed to an offending spouse: "I don't even know you anymore."  It prompts the question, "Did you ever?"

St. Francis, thank you for being man enough to help a brother tell Satan off.  Not that you thought of it, but feel no shame for your manner of speaking: the vulgarity was important.

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