SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

THE LIFE OF PEACE

Archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1725) had told his parishioners not to be harsh or impatient with older church members, but to respect them much like a son admires his father or a daughter her mother. Also, help those in need who cannot help themselves. The bishop now instructs them to walk confidently through the shadows of doubt and fear outlined in the Gospels. He doesn’t want them to gain confidence in their feelings, tastes, insight through reason, or any extraordinary gifts. Instead, be content to believe, obey, and die to self, according to the state in life in which God has placed you.

Furthermore, they must not be discouraged by your involuntary distractions. It is enough if they do not encourage such disruptions that interfere with their prayer life by yielding too quickly to a voluntary disintegration and scattering of their thoughts throughout the day.

Sometimes, says the bishop, people try to do too much. By that, he meant they overload themselves with good works with too much eagerness and excitement. Not only that, but they get distracted by indulging in personal tastes and fancies. It leaves God no other choice than to stop answering their prayers. Instead, they must learn to act calmly and in continual dependence on the Spirit of grace, eliminating all the hidden works of self-love.

However, says Fénelon, making communion with God a part of their daily routine will assist their inner soul in reaching out to the inmost soul of God. It is like saying to God, “From my heart to your heart, O Lord.” So, it is to live in the presence of God. Take time to reflect, and do not forfeit what you’ve already found in God by turning to seek elsewhere, what you will not find. Instead, try to make your intentions to serve the Lord more definite. Meanwhile, your undefined, undeveloped purposes are good. A peaceful heart is a good sign, provided that you heartily and lovingly obey God, and guard against self-love.

Meanwhile, utilize your work in progress to learn how to prioritize God over self and cling firmly to God alone. Try to grow in all the fruit of the reborn spirit, that you may do the will of your Beloved. It will help prevent you from falling victim to dangerous works of self-satisfaction.

And finally, try to be single-minded. Avoid allowing anxiety to cause you to look backward out of fear. It is a fault that self-love encourages under various pretexts. It will only disturb you and prove to be a trap. Those who lead a recollected and mortified life through a genuine desire to love God will be quickly warned by that love whenever they sin against it. As soon as you feel such warnings, pause. I repeat my injunction, says Fénelon: be at rest.[1]

It would be unrealistic to believe that Archbishop Fénelon was not guided in his thoughts by the Scriptures. That would include the words of the young Psalmist who vowed to God, “I’ve attentively watched how You’ve done it. I relish everything You’ve told me of life; I won’t forget a word of it.”[2] And the Apostle Paul, who faced distractions of all kinds, told everyone who might also find roadblocks in the path toward spiritual growth to remember this – the wrong desires that come into their lives aren’t anything new and different. Many others faced the same problems before them. And although some irresistible enticements may try to pull them away from following God’s Word and communing with Him in prayer, they can trust God to keep any distraction from becoming so strong that they can’t stand up against them. He has promised this and will do what He says. He will show them how to avoid things, trying to discourage them from staying on the right path by giving them the power to stand against such interferences with resolve.[3]


[1] Fénelon, François: Paraclete Giants, The Complete Fénelon, Translated and Edited by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2008, pp. 29-30; Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

[2] Psalm 119:14-15 – The Message

[3] 1 Corinthians 10:13

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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