Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, 1930.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
In today's Gospel Our Lord points out to us the example of His Blessed Mother. She heard the word of God and kept it. "She kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" always. So she was never dismayed. She always knew. She never faltered. She could be meek and magnified. She could rejoice and be the Mother of Sorrows. She could be handmaiden and queen. For she heard the word of God and kept it. It is for Christians to follow her example.
The word of God is spoken to each one of us. If we listen we may hear it. If we keep it, we shall be blessed. Purity of heart is necessary for hearing. Quietness of mind is necessary for receiving. Integrity of will is necessary for keeping.
By purity of heart is meant the exclusion of all affections which would alienate the heart from God.
By quietness of mind is meant the disregard of all suggestions that would distract the mind from God.
By integrity of will is meant the rejection of all intentions which would divert the will from God.
This three-fold adjustment of heart and mind and will is the objective of all Sacramental and prayer life. Religion means a right relation. The purpose of all religious practises is to attain this right relationship with God.
The Sacramental life establishes and preserves the relationship.
The prayer life exercises the functions of this relationship.
By means of the Sacraments we are regenerated, confirmed, released and renewed. We are established in communion with God. We are equipped with the spiritual faculties which make spiritual discernment of spiritual things possible. We are saved from the perils of self-deception. We are given minds that are stayed in God. We are saved from the dangers of the false peace which is within our understanding. We are given the peace of God which passes our understanding. We are delivered from the deceptive consolations which are rooted in the senses. We are given the joy and peace which are fruits of the spirit.
Experimental prayer life without the Sacramental foundation has always proved unsatisfactory. The neglect or abandonment of the Sacramental life has always led into quietistic heresies and false mysticism.
There is a revived interest in mysticism today. There are many popular books on the subject. There is much of ill-considered rushing in where angels fear to tread. The kind of mystic who is ignorant of the age-long experience of the Catholic Church, or who is hostile to the system under which Catholic saints have been produced, can never be a safe guide for Christians.
There is but one way. That way is the way of the Catholic saints. It is the way of the common life. Those who would set out on that way must first become as little children. They must ask nothing, desire nothing, expect nothing. They must be content with the common way. They must yield themselves, their souls and their bodies, to God in the Sacraments. They must have but one desire, and that desire is to do the will of God, to accept the will of God, to find peace in the will of God. They must study to be quiet. They must learn to be still.
Then will come the silence. In that silence the still, small voice will be heard.
There will be no startling revelations. There will be a sweetly ordered life.
There will be no spectacular events. There will be consolations, desolations, silences, waitings. No waiting will be in vain. All things will work together for good. All will be well in the end. The blessing for the hearing and waiting will come.
Affectionately in Our Lord,