Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Unnatural Attachment to Chaos

Today is the feast of St. Rose of Lima. This morning I read this from her writings:

Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace.... This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.

We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions...

No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men.

Last year when I read this same thing on her feast day, I remember being struck by this truth that graces come to us through our crosses, or rather through our experience of Christ's cross.

But this morning, something rather different struck me.

Yes, there's the natural shrinking from what is unpleasant. But I believe in this generation there is another problem as well: there is sometimes an unnatural gravitation towards chaos, turmoil and self-inflicted pain.

There's something in the psyche of one who has experienced childhood chaos, turmoil and pain that has taught us that somehow these are where to seek comfort. No, it doesn't make sense, and I think those who repeat this cycle have some level of awareness of its absurdity. The mixture of this kind of mentality with religion is terribly toxic and, I believe, deceptive. One could read St. Rose's words and glory in reproducing or mentally wallowing in life's pains, making them worse than they need to be. For the non-religious person, the reproduction or the wallowing will be there anyway, but not so much the glorying. The saint might give this religious person an excuse to keep living in bondage to injury.

The key to breaking out of this cycle is detachment from one's own will, even the will to "endure pain." St. Rose makes it clear that the cross she describes is something that happens, something given to us, not something created by us. If I have a dreadfully messy house in which I can never find anything, that is not a cross given to me by God; it is something I have created. If I bemoan the fact that no one ever calls me, that is something I can remedy by reaching out to others. It would be wrong for me to sit at home and feel despised and glory in this, thinking I am winning souls to God this way. The gift God makes of suffering, and salutary penances I can choose have absolutely nothing to do with twisted self-punishment.

Sometimes we cling to the only security blankets we have ever known. If pain or generalized discomfort is life-long, it can actually become a crutch, something we don't know how to live without. Submission of our will to God will need to take the form of welcoming and receiving His love, peace, and joy. "Be loved!" and "be happy!" can, for some souls, be the hardest commands to which to respond "Yes, Lord."

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