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

04 July 2013

Your Will is Yours

I know we're currently in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time, but let me make a plug for my favorite Stations of the Cross: Everyone's Way of the Cross (1970) by Fr. Clarence Enzler. We often used it in my home parish.
The old cover...not even the oldest!
Originally it was called "Everyman's Way of the Cross." A more enlightened era solved that problem! To be honest, I hadn't realized the changes until I discovered an older copy. Kinda like archaeology, ain't?
Say what you will about 70s holdovers: I still like EWOTC because of its spirituality. The author's premise is that everyone is Christ's "other self," and therefore ought to act accordingly not only in grand trials, but also--especially--in life's ordinary moments.

This approach applies to every baptized person's identification with Christ as priest, prophet, and king. Every priest shares in that identity in a particular way, as expressed in that awesome moniker, alter Christus. An awesome responsibility not just for priests, but for all the baptized. Whether Enzler was trying to downplay sacerdotal uniqueness or elevate baptismal dignity, one may never know. (I would favor the latter, which in fact does not accomplish the former.)

Persons who pray the Liturgy of the Hours frequently read the Psalms; as a result, and through the Holy Spirit, a phrase from a psalm or canticle often comes to mind at appropriate times. Lines from EWOTC also occur to me in this fashion.

During a recent conversation, I thought of this one from the ninth station (I had to look it up, as I couldn't recall its precise origin):
"No force on earth and none in hell can take away your will. Your will is yours."
This came to mind because I was talking to someone who was feeling trapped by family difficulties. It's easy to allow other people, even our own family members, to impinge upon our freedom. "S/he demands too much!" But how much, and what sort of allowance, do you give him/her? Before long, if you want to be well, you have to look closely and honestly at your own responsibility in the matter, accept what you can change, be willing and courageous to change what you can, and seek the wisdom to discern the difference. Does s/he, or anyone else, make you feel this way or that? One may retort, "Well, you can't choose to feel, can you?" Perhaps not, but you can choose what feelings to entertain. You can weigh them against the truth, even when the truth doesn't seem as clear as you'd prefer it to be. And what sort of factors muddle the truth, anyhow? Fear tops the list; and you are free to add your own.

Human beings are going to experience fears. When Jesus says, "Fear is useless, what is needed is trust" (Mk 5:36), we might feel further disappointment in ourselves for fearing someone or something. "Aw, that's not what disciples do!" Well, run that assertion by the Apostles to whom Jesus felt it necessary to say that.

Trust--faith--is needed; but trust is more than feeling that "everything's gonna work itself out." That's an important dimension, but it doesn't present the complete picture. Faith involves action. When we begin to experience fear, we need to get in the habit of asking God as soon as possible what the proper response is, whether it take the form of words, actions, or (usually the case) some combination of these.

The devil can toy with our imagination and our memory, but he can't toy with our intellect and our will. It's not easy to pause and consider the distinction between these human faculties in real time, in the midst of a challenging situation. Spiritual companionship helps: it helps to have on hand someone who can help you to seek consoling yet challenging clarification. And it helps us to seek that clarification explicitly, open to whatever he or she may offer. In the event that such a friend is not readily available, remember that God is! If at times it sounds to us like we're complaining, we can be grateful that some listeners (human and divine) are willing to listen to us; but beware that some of them may ask us what we're willing to do for a change. Who'd blame them for it?

Eventually we are once again reminded of our deepest freedom, where God is present, whereby we can make it through another day.

+ + + + +

Now this day is U.S. Independence Day. At this national moment there are voices announcing threats to religious freedom in our country, with proposed mandates for contraceptive and abortifacient coverage in health insurance. This is supposed to be of particular concern to Catholics, who have steadfastly held the immorality of artificial contraception.  But this ought to be of particular concern to all Americans, who would not be forced by any human power to violate fundamental freedoms.

Will we allow this to happen--specifically, will we allow this coverage to become mandatory? Will it result in more restrictions on the basic liberties of Americans? Will enough people care? It may depend on what freedoms seem to be restricted at the time. What's one more?
People might be willing to endure certain restrictions if they don't feel the undesirable effects of those restrictions. If they do feel undesirable effects, they will have to summon the motivation to make the necessary changes and consider their options. But nothing will happen until the discomfort level is high enough. People will complain, but their current options will seem rather limited, so that's as far as it will go.

"They demand too much!"


  1. Thank you, Father. This came at a particularly good time for me. God bless.