John of the Cross: August 2002 Archives

On Vocation


On Vocation

I have written a number of posts reflecting on St. John of the Cross and the Carmelite way, and I was getting a bit despondent at the lack of interest and/or discussion they seemed to provoke. But as I was reflecting on this I realized several things, the most important of which I shall share.

The lack of response isn't due to a lack of readership, but it is due to the nature of vocation. Some may stop by and read an endless blog on detachment and say--"What's his problem?" or "What was that all about?" Others may stop and read and find it perfectly clear and have no comment. Yet others may stop by and say, "And that means what to me?" All are legitimate responses. What it points out to me, is that vocation really is a gift from God.

From as early as I can remember in my spiritual life, I have had the desire to be as close to God as I possibly could--to "climb inside" God and not come out. Through a tortured path of mistakes, poor discernment, and God's Grace, I finally found my way to the Third Order of Carmel. Previously I had read some of St. John of the Cross and realized that what he was talking about was exactly what I wanted. I remember a discussion with my wife before we bought our first house. She was talking excitedly about how great it would be to "own" a house, and all I could think about, with serious dread, was the prospect of a house now "owning" me. It was yet another thing to care for and take time away from what really mattered.

All along, God has been calling me to detachment, to a gentle movement toward Him. I have moved ever so slowly. But as I said in a teaching to my Carmelite Community last week, "Three steps forward and two steps back is still a step in the right direction." My ascent of Mt. Carmel may take me the rest of my life (of course it will--that too is the nature of vocation), but at least God has granted me a sense of what I am doing, and some reliable saintly guides as to how to go about it. Both of these are great treasures that God in His mercy has seen fit to grant me. And so, because He has also shown me this way, I would like to share them as much as possible; therefore, lack of comment is no object. We must recognize why we do things, reject the human rationalizations and desires, and do what we do solely for the love of God.

Bookmark and Share

Sayings of Light and Love


Sayings of Light and Love

John of the Cross wrote a series of very short aphorisms meant to instruct the Carmelite Religious of his time. These short sayings are very much like the sayings of the desert fathers in that they pack a lot of meaning or intent into a very small space. They are great for meditation starters, or in series for an intense lectio.

20. God is more pleased by one work, however small, done secretly, without desire that it be known, than a thousand done with the desire that people know of them. Those who work for God with purest love not only care nothing about whether others see their works, but do not even seek that God himself know of them. Such persons would not cease to render God the same services, with the same joy and purity of love, even if God were never to know of these.

This demonstrates one of the primary themes of St. John of the Cross--seeking nothing, letting go of all desire and of all attachments. This detachment is a necessary stage in growth toward unity with God. After detachment comes purification (the variously described "Dark Nights"). But detachment is the first rule. In order to achieve union with God one must be detached from everything less than God. The other day a person interested in becoming a Carmelite asked me, "Does that include your children?" And my answer, immediately, was, "Of course."

But you need to understand what detachment is and what it is not. Many people confuse detachment with indifference. They are not the same. An person who is detached is able to calmly and carefully care for a child or another person who has just fallen and may have broken a limb. An indifferent person looks upon the same spectacle with the attitude that it is all part of the rich pageant of life, and then goes inside to pour him- or herself a beer.

Detachment is the ability to let everything go into the good that God has prepared for His entire creation. Detachment from one's children means loving them, guiding them, bringing them up in the way they should go, lavishing care and concern on them, but not seeking to control every action of their lives; you need to be there as guardian, guide, and advisor, and then you need to trust them confidently to God's loving care when it comes time for them to make their own choices.

True detachment delivers the object to the infinite care of Almighty God, understanding that we are incapable of even a microscopic fraction of the care and love God lavishes upon each of His Children. In the parlance of one group, detachment is "Letting go and letting God." But it really is--rather than just being a cute slogan. Detachment is a source of enormous peace, because you are no longer burdened with the need to control everyone and everything around you. Detachment is not cold, it is passionate, loving, caring, and deeply intimate. It shows far greater love than any other action we can take, because we turn the object of our concern over to the Infinite source of Love and all concern. We trust our most loved people and things to the One who can most love them--God.

More on John of the Cross as we go along.

Bookmark and Share



About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the John of the Cross category from August 2002.

John of the Cross: July 2002 is the previous archive.

John of the Cross: September 2002 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll