Prayers of thanksgiving for John, who has been unemployed since three
weeks before the birth of his son, nearly a year. He has found work.
Deo gratias! God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. Thanks so
January 20, May 21, September 20
Chapter 4: What Are the Instruments of Good Works
To fear the Day of Judgment.
To be in dread of hell.
To desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
To keep death daily before one's eyes.
To keep constant guard over the actions of one's life.
To know for certain that God sees one everywhere.
When evil thoughts come into one's heart, to dash them against Christ
And to manifest them to one's spiritual mother.
To guard one's tongue against evil and depraved speech.
Not to love much talking.
Not to speak useless words or words that move to laughter.
Not to love much or boisterous laughter.
To listen willingly to holy reading.
To devote oneself frequently to prayer.
Daily in one's prayers, with tears and sighs, to confess one's past
sins to God, and to amend them for the future.
Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh; to hate one's own will.
To obey in all things the commands of the Abbess, even though she
herself (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the
Lord's precept, "Do what they say, but not what they do."
Not to wish to be called holy before one is holy; but first to be
holy, that one may be truly so called.
Different instruments of good works push our buttons- that in itself
should be something of a clue to self-discovery. Usually what pushes
one's buttons for good or ill is worth examining a bit. However, we
can also have very selective eyes and it is sometimes even more
useful to go back to the parts we skimmed quickly and ran past. Most
people would love to have a lengthy discussion on laughter and the
Holy Rule at this point, but I'm not going there.
I'm going to a point that is often ignored completely: the existence
of hell. Now, bear in mind that I write from a point as close to
universalism (the notion that all people will go to heaven,) as one
can possibly come and remain a Catholic. I believe in hell, but I
hope to find it empty. Neither I nor anyone who hopes to escape hell
themselves can want or will ANYONE to be there. It would be so
wonderful to find hell empty. What joy!
However, a bit of realism that looms closer to objectivity than
subjectivity is in order here. I hate to tell you that, although I
clearly must have made it into the last round of interviews, I did
NOT get the job of Arbiter of the Universe, Cosmos and All That Is.
No one else did, either. That's God's and God's alone. Hence, what we
WISH would be or would LIKE to see or even HOPE to see is not quite
as definitive as we might think. Wishful thinking may be warm and
cuddly, but it is rather shoddy theology.
Hell is real, it exists. Given the track record of human beings alive
in embracing God, it is not altogether foolish to assume that some of
those billions throughout time died at war with God and insisted on
staying that way. Heartbreaking, yes, but not unlikely.
Jesus Himself speaks of hell, and if one wishes to posit that He was
mistaken or wrong, a whole kettle of fish that will not end in
Christianity or Christ's divinity ensues. In spite of what many of us
hope, that all suffering is taken care of in this life, He speaks of
hell and He speaks of it as eternal. One must assume He knew what He
was dealing with...
Private revelation is hardly normative, but when it does not
contradict Scripture or tradition or the living voice of the Church
it can be at least elucidating. Numerous mystics have had visions of
hell. Much to my regret, none of them so far has reported it to be
empty, either. Nope, there WAS a population of sorts. Not terribly
So, what is this all about? Well, for starters, do all you can to
ensure that you don't go there!! But that is not enough. Pray, pray,
pray for sinners, for the conversion of all, for the dying, for those
We have seen again and again that prayer DOES change things, even
when the object of our prayers does not know they are being prayed
for! That is a mystery. We do not understand how it works, but it
works! Get busy! When we appear before the Judgement seat it will not
hurt at ALL to have a truckload of souls to our credit! Acquire a
hunger for souls; that is appropriate to all, not just clergy or
monastics. It is the mark of a loving Christian faith.
We know that mercy is infinite and unfathomable, the greatest
attribute of God. But we also know that free will and free will alone
can thwart that mercy by rejection. God respects free will
However, and this is just a personal opinion of one who really
doesn't know how prayer works, I have a suspicion that God DOES allow
our prayer to somehow affect free will. I feel that there must be
some human element here that we will never know or understand
till heaven, if then!
Prayer DOES change things, and some of those things are stubborn
human hearts and minds and wills! One of the most wonderful aspects
of this hypothesis is that God perhaps allows us to go where even He
can't go for the salvation of all. Now THAT is not shabby!
Love and prayers,