“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” While I haven’t watched any of The Godfather movies, this is the famous line from the third movie that sums up our collective feeling right now. Just as the COVID restrictions were being lifted, we’re being plunged back into a world of lockdowns, masks, and more uncertainty. It’s causing so much additional stress to an already stressed out environment. It’s especially taking a toll on those whose mental health has suffered during the pandemic.
Not only that, some of us are hurting over the loss of Latin Masses due to the latest motu proprio of Pope Francis. Sometimes it feels like we keep getting kicked while we’re already down. How can we Catholics try to navigate through this new setback, especially when we sometimes don’t have access to the Mass and/or spiritual direction?
For me it calls to mind the excellent book Uniformity with God’s Will by St. Alphonsus di Liguori. While it may have been written hundreds of years ago, this spiritual classic has some important lessons and tips that are still relevant today—since the substance of spiritual truths are timeless. I’d even argued that this is one of those books that all Catholics should read at least once.
Need convincing as to why this short book should be at the top of your reading list? Here are just some of the lessons you will benefit from by reading it.
Using these trials as an opportunities to grow in sanctity
As St. Alphonsus writes, we should take these times of suffering (even if it’s “just” mentally or spiritually) and see them as opportunities to grow in our sanctity. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is be obedient to those who have authority over us but acts of obedience are more pleasing to God than acts of sacrifice as obedience forces us to be humble and let go of our wounded pride. That itself becomes a true act of sacrifice and penance.
Of course, if those in authority ask for us to do something that is immoral, we aren’t obligated to listen to them but it would do us good to, instead of reacting to news right away, take the time to gather all the facts and act appropriately. Watch all the graces and virtues grow doing it.
Resigning ourselves to God’s will will set us free
Hear me (and St. Alphonsus) out. It may seem backwards but by resigning ourselves to God’s Will, we will be freed from so things that cause us to feel trapped. By voluntarily giving up our need for control over things that are stressing us out, we will regain inner peace that has eluded some of us from the past year. If it’s hard for you to let go of the need to control even the smallest things, ask God for the grace to endure the hardships. After all, trials come from or are allowed by God for the sanctification of our souls (see number one) and remembering that will also remind you that he is in control of everything and wants nothing but the best for you.
Don’t feel guilty if things are going well for you
As odd as it may sound, some people are feeling guilty over how much they are thriving or, at the very least, not suffering as much as others are. As St. Alphonsus reminds us, we shouldn’t want to suffer for the sake of suffering. If you’re in a season of life where things are going well, praise God for the blessings. You can help others in any way that you can but don’t feel guilty for the good that happens to you. You should want whatever God wills, that includes the joys during strange times.
What to do in times of temptations to despair and be despondent
The central theme of this book is to conform ourselves to God’s Will as everything that happens is allowed for our good. It may not seem like it as you’re going through that hard time but you will eventually see why God allowed it. St. Alphonsus advices us to pray: “Do build up or tear down, O Lord, as seems good in thy sight. I am content. I wish only what Thou dost wish.”
When the devil tempts you with “what if…” thoughts, say, “By God’s grace I would say or do what God would want me to say or do.”
During temptations you can also say, “Lord, do with me, let happen to me, what Thou wilt. Thy Grace is sufficient for me. Only let me never lose this grace.”
These highlights only scratch the surface. There is so much more that we can learn from this wise Saint whose feast day we just celebrated earlier this month.
What are you waiting for? Get your hands on a copy of this great book and (spiritually) arm yourself for any additional hardships coming our way.
Featured Image: Wikimedia commons.