How to apply the Saint's examples
Quote:Then I was not wrong in my agreement that pursuing saintlihood in the same sense as the saints is going to suck. Got it.

Here is a priest's explanation from EWTN that I found to helpful on this subject:

John, far be it from me to discourage Catholics from a life of penance and mortification. What I meant was that we are not to engage in extraordinary mortification and without permission of a director and/or special message from the Lord Himself. Some of your examples simply described the terrible sufferings imposed on the martyrs, not their daily life mortification. The Little Flower of Jesus was so weak she couldn't mortify herself beyond the practice of the daily rule,(incidentally not without much penance in itself.) The dying to self of the Gospel is best attained by living out the will of God for oneself with perfect faith, hope, and love. For most people, extraordinary measures of penance would be cause for self-pride, for self-promotion. That is why one should always have the permission of one's director before attempting such. A life of prayer and penance should generally be known to oneself, not to others, and for the reason just given . You quoted the penance of St. Thomas More who ostensibly lived the life of a grand nobleman in England with the furs and perquisites of high office. His simply penance was watering down his beer at the grand state affairs he had to attend. Notice how small and unnoticable. I have known some who practiced penance too strictly, and eventually gave it all up, including the Faith practice itself. In sum, a good life of a married couple should include a sufficient number of children, which in itself will guarantee them both a long life of suffering, penance, mortification, sacrifice, prayer, self-denial in all things. All of which are ordinary, not extreme, not impossible. God bless. Fr. Bob Levis

Introvert, I am sorry to hear about your sufferings.  Although God can and may heal you, in the mean time you can be assured that they have value, including your desire for children.  Each time you feel that desire and sadness, you could offer that up for a mom and dad who are considering aborting their child, that they may come to know the baby's value. 

What I was talking about when I said that if we pursue the life of a saint it will probably suck is that it will be hard.  Christianity is hard. 

Sometimes I've felt like this is too hard and I want to give up. :P

But life is hard.  And you know what, it's harder to live life without Jesus.  I'm so grateful to have meaning for my unavoidable sufferings.

One lady asked a priest online for help with a non-believing husband who was turning her children away from the faith and he offered what assistance he could.  He also assured her that if you weren't suffering with this, it would be cancer...or something else.  There is always a cross.

St. Gianna gave some perspective on this in her last words to her husband:

“Pietro, I was on the other side already and if I could tell you what I saw! One day I will. But since we were too happy with our wonderful children, full of health and grace, with all of heaven’s blessings, they sent me back here, to suffer more, because it is not right to knock at the Lord’s door without having suffered greatly.”

Honestly, I don't think following Christ has to be *that* hard. It makes it harder when people place what they believe to be the "right way" as part of the path. What's unfortunate is there isn't a lot of good information out there and it's exhausting to filter through it all the time. 

When people are like "be a saint," my first thought is okay, I have to be dead first don't I?

An important point, from the FE page, "Religious Life", my emphasis in bold:

All of us are called to be "religious," that is, "to bind" (Latin: religare) ourselves to God. We are all called to keep the Two Great Commandments, the Ten Commandments, and the Six Precepts of the Church, and to assent to the Church's teachings. But some of us are called to bind ourselves to God in a special way, to go beyond the "minimum requirements" and to seek the higher path -- the path of perfection.
In Matthew 19:16-30, Jesus is asked how to be saved. He answers. And then He also reveals what we must do to be perfect -- two different things:
Quote:And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? Who said to him: Why asketh thou Me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

The young man saith to him: All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me? Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow Me. And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.

Then Jesus said to His disciples: Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered very much, saying: Who then can be saved? And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible. Then Peter answering, said to Him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed Thee: what therefore shall we have?

And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of His majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for My Name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting. And many that are first, shall be last: and the last shall be first.
Since the earliest times of the Church, men and women sought to live this ideal, and women led the way, following the advice of St. Paul, who wrote in I Corinthians 7:34, 39-40
Quote:And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.... ...A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord. But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, according to my counsel; and I think that I also have the spirit of God.
Take what I say with the credence it deserves (not much) but this is how I figure things.

Many of the life stories of the saints are very extreme examples.  They have to be placed in perspective; were they early Christians where martyrdom was a predicted consequence, did they live during a period where societal norms were unfavorable towards them (your example of St. Monica fits here) or were they examples of extreme penance and mortification in a time when such actions were illustrative of depth of belief?  Our Church has a long distinguished history so naturally the everyday lives of her followers have shifted with the societal changes in which they live.  Situations change but core lessons remain the same. 

As has already been said on this thread, and rightly so, we are all called to the service of Our Lord in many different ways and these ways reveal themselves over our lifetimes.  So, how does this relate to apply the saints’ examples in our own lives?  Well, the way I see it as this and it’s probably a really rudimentary way of dealing with all of this.  At the core of all the saints’ examples are a primary message and from these ‘main points’, what we can apply to our lives.  So, take St. Monica for example.  We are not expected to endure never-ending infidelity from our spouses but rather, we learn from her that a woman retained her strong faith, devoted to her vows and continued to live piously in situations where someone would generally to say ‘to heck with it all!’  If we are placed in a similar situation, we are to apply her example of prayerfully considering our options, not losing our faith in God and being committed to the sacrament although our earthly situation is quite trying.

We are not expected to wear hair shirts and whip ourselves like St. Francis De Sales because times have changed.  But, from him we learn penance can be physically difficult and self-sacrifice is required of all of us.  How does this take shape in your life though?  If wearing a hair shirt is the only way that works for you, go for it.  :LOL:

What about martyrdom?  The lesson from all those saints is that if we are placed in a situation where we must renounce our faith or face a consequence, we are expected to be true to our Catholic beliefs.  Obviously, the Christians in the Middle East are demonstrating this point but how does this reflect to us?  If we are in a circle of friends where they are saying blasphemous things, we are expected to stand tall in name of our faith.  The consequences are different but the core lesson from the saints is the same.  We are not to renounce our faith no matter what.

If we take the core of their lessons and not their exact reactions, we are not generally led down pathways of self-harm, violations of conscience or bad behavior.

That’s how I apply the saints’ lessons.  I learn about their lives and how steadfast they were in their beliefs in a generally similar situation.  How that takes shape in my own life is a different example.  But like I’ve said before, I’m not the best Catholic, or the most theologically educated, but this is how I view the average layperson attaining saintliness.  I'm sure the better informed people will poke many holes in my suppositions.   

Think of it like a role model: we'll never be in the same situation as them but from them, we see the qualities and traits we want to emulate in our own lives.  For us, these lessons are focused on developing the understanding our faith or deepening our commitment to God and the Church instead of excelling at a sport, hobby or work.
This is where the developments of systematic spiritual theology in the last two and a half centuries have come very much in handy. The Church down through the ages has discerned through the life of Her own members precisely the questions being asked here, and She offers us relatively clear answers actually. Three excellent and classic works (somewhat dry because they are primarily academic and not popular works) are:

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Three Ages of the Spiritual Life (TAN Books), 2 vol.
Antonio Royo Marin, The Theology of Christian Perfection (Wipf & Stock), 1 vol. (Or if you can read Spanish, search for his original Teologia de la Perfeccion Cristiana (2 vol.), which is actually significantly longer; the translation leaves a lot out.)
Jordan Aumann, Spiritual Theology (Continuum), 1 vol.

The shortest of those three is Aumann's Spiritual Theology, which is actually a summary of Royo-Marin's Theology of Christian Perfection. Garrigou-Lagrange praised Royo-Marin's work as the best manual of spiritual theology he had read, so that is extremely high praise.

But if you lack the time to read those tomes, here is the summary:

1. Life, by its nature, tends to its own perfection. Natural life develops from its early stages into full maturity, assuming nothing hinders its proper growth.

2. Since grace is the life of God in the soul, grace too ought to develop in the soul to full maturity. This is called holiness or sanctity. It is the life of Christ in our souls, developed to the point that we can say with St. Paul, "Now I live, but no longer I but Christ within me."

3. Human life reaches its natural happiness through virtue since virtue is proper to being creatures of reason and emotion.

4. But grace adds to virtue the life of God and extends these virtues so that we must consider even the supernatural realm. Here is where Christ's full revelation comes into play. Christ showed us that virtue ultimately can find its completion only in

1) The fulfillment of the Commandments, principally the Commandments of Love: Love God and love your neighbor as He has loved us.

2) The participation in the life of the Church through the Sacraments, beginning with Baptism and Confirmation, strengthened by Communion, healed by Confession, specified by Matrimony or Holy Orders, and prepared by Extreme Unction; liturgical life also is essential here.

3) The life of prayer, both public (liturgical) and private (vocal and mental prayer). Private prayer aids the life of virtue and duties, and the fulfillment of the latter help the life of prayer as both lead us closer to God. Conscious prayer begins to give way to higher, "unconscious" forms of prayer, deeper prayers, such as contemplation. This is the prayer of the Saints and is extraordinary only in the sense that few seem to noticeably attain it. However, all are called to the deepest prayer life since grace, by its nature, tends to full maturity.

5. Extraordinary graces, such as St. Paul enumerates in his epistles, are just that: extraordinary; graces such as speaking in tongues, levitation, bilocation, reading of the heart, the stigmata, etc. are not part of the essential aspect of the life of grace. Otherwise Christ would have said so, but He didn't, and the testimony of the Church bears witness to it.

6. However, it just so happens that as people attain greater and more intimate union with God, God usually tends to favor such people with at least one of these extraordinary graces. We must recall at this point what St. Paul says about such gifts: they are for the benefit of others, and towering above all such graces is charity, which is the essence of the spiritual life. Hence he says, "If I can speak in the tongues of angels but have not charity, I am nothing." He likewise says in Colossians: "But above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfection."

It makes sense that God favors the holy with these extraordinary graces because the soul at this point lives solely for God, and God desires that all be saved. Hence these holy souls above all others can help save others by being pure instruments of grace. Their extraordinary gifts can be used without relative danger to that individual's pride because they have died to their self-love. If God were to grant such graces to those younger or less mature in the spiritual life, there would be serious danger of a fall and scandal, which we see always in the false mystics and visionaries.

To summarize once again:

The life of grace leads, assuming it is unhindered and helped along the way, to perfect holiness.

Perfect holiness consists essentially in charity within the soul, the life and love of God, as Scripture and Tradition reveals, and the life of charity is fostered by participating in 1) the life of the Church (Sacraments and personal vocation), 2) the life of virtue (Commandments and virtues), and 3) the life of prayer.

As to how to apply the extraordinary graces in one's life, that requires a competent and holy spiritual director at all times and perfect submission to the authority of the Church. Everyone who didn't do that either wasn't a true mystic or ended up falling away. God will guide the soul to the proper exercise of these gifts because at that point in the spiritual life, the soul moves when the Holy Ghost moves it as St. John of the Cross demonstrates in his writings.
richgr, I will take your suggestion and start by reading one of the books.

Lately I've been experiencing a season of spiritual dryness or fatigue. There was a time where I did seek out the advice of other Christian women and continued to get advice about how I needed to keep dealing with a life of mortification and penance. Frankly, it gets exhausting. I haven't been angry with God in a while (long story), but I do experience times of sorrowfulness and loss, all things considered. When someone's like "look at this saint, she dealt with such and so for yeeeears, you can do it too!" I don't know whether to bang my head or throw my hands up into the air. I recently implored my husband to attend a more traditional parish, preferably TLM and got nowhere. Of course, I'll honor his request to continue attending NO; unfortunately over the past couple of years I've come to intensely dislike it unless a parish does a great job (only saw it happen once). Then I read about Elisabeth Leseur and how she was married to a husband who mocked her for her faith and they were a childless couple...then I think okay, she had it worse, maybe I need to suck it up? I know she's not a canonized saint, though it appears she's looked at as a model for married women. She was very intellectual and I do find myself relating to her more than say, St. Monica.

Sacred Heart Lover, I mentioned your statement in the other thread not to pick on you (and I apologize if it seemed that way) but because I connected to it.
For spiritual aridity, it's important to talk to a competent priest for advice. Usually there are three basic causes for aridity (and these are by no means mutually exclusive):

1. A period of purification to test and improve the strength of the soul (this usually occurs during and after a period of faithful prayer life and working on virtues). This usually happens after a period of consolation and is usually aided by occasional consolations but not necessarily so.

2. The negligence of the person in maintaining a good spiritual life, who upon returning to a regular practice of prayer and virtue, finds it difficult and dry due to attachment to worldly or casual pleasures. Sometimes this negligence can be found in someone persevering faithful prayer but for some reason remains attached to subtle personal flaws or vices. For example, St. John of the Cross speaks of subtle spiritual pride or attachments sneaking into a person who is working on the spiritual life.

3. Bodily weakness can cause aridity and difficulty in prayer, such as exhaustion of the body or other bodily conditions.

St. John of the Cross gives a good explanation of true aridity (number 1 listed above), the differences, and how to discern them:

We find no comfort in the things of God, and none also in created things. . . but the memory dwells ordinarily upon God with a painful anxiety and carefulness; the soul thinks it is not serving God, but going backwards, because it is no longer conscious of any sweetness in the things of God. In that case it is clear that this weariness of spirit and aridity are not the results of weakness and lukewarmness; for the peculiarity of lukewarmness is the want of earnestness in, and of interior solicitude for, the things of God. There is, therefore, a great difference between dryness and lukewarmness, for the latter consists in great remissness and weakness of will and spirit, in the want of all solicitude about serving God. The true purgative aridity is accompanied in general by a painful anxiety, because the soul thinks that it is not serving God. . . . For when mere bodily indisposition is the cause, all that it does is to produce disgust and the ruin of bodily health, without the desire of serving God which belongs to the purgative aridity. In this aridity, though the sensual part of man be greatly depressed, weak and sluggish in good works, by reason of the little satisfaction they furnish, the spirit is, nevertheless, ready and strong. (Dark Night 1.9).

Enduring true spiritual aridity isn't a matter of "sucking it up" or ignoring the pain, but it does require perseverance and surrender to God's will. God will never give us dryness beyond our strength, and as St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. Teresa of Avila say, the prayer of dryness is often the best prayer we can make! It is more powerful, more efficacious, more healing, more strengthening than prayer when we are fervent even if it doesn't seem so at all. It is the prayer of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. God didn't tell Him to "suck it up" or see how much worse others had it (this actually would have been impossible since Christ's sufferings there were greater than all our combined suffering); rather God sent angels to comfort Christ in the acceptance of His pain.
Unfortunately because my husband and I have changed parishes so many times, I don't know of a good priest to talk to. I've also found a lot of priests are often very busy.
In that case, spiritual reading will be your best, consistent help. This website is excellent for reference:

And it always doesn't hurt to pray for a good priest to be a regular director or counselor.

Without knowing your situation better, I would at least recommend books on general spirituality rather than anything focused on a particular topic because having a general knowledge gives good balance to dealing with particular issues in the spiritual life. However, if you feel you really need to know about a particular issue, try to pick authors who are known for their clarity and balance in dealing with topics, such as the Saints and great theologians. The works I listed above have been the most helpful for me in giving me a broad understanding of how to live the spiritual life in a balanced way.

A Jesuit once told me that he found consistent, daily reading has been one of the most helpful things for him both intellectually and spiritually. It might be a similar case for you if you can't find a regular guide outside of books and a few trustworthy friends.

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