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Graces Given by God

Q: Dear Father John, I have started saying a daily Morning Offering Prayer in which I ask God with the help of His Grace that I remain all day in a spirit of praise and thanksgiving Miguel Cabrera Saint Ignatius Loyola Google_Art_Project Wikimedia Commons copyand that all of my actions be for the purpose of doing His will. However, I find I cannot remain in this spirit all day with the normal pressures of everyday life to deal with that can take my mind off of God. Does God withhold his Grace for whatever reason or if I ask does He grant me this Grace no matter what? I am trying to figure out why I can’t fulfill my promise to Him whenever I say this prayer every morning. I don’t see any difference in my attitude than before I started saying this prayer, although I mean it with all my heart when I pray it in the morning.

A: This is a fantastic question, and I am sure many of our readers will be able to relate to it. Underneath the specific issue of your petition to remain in a spirit of praise all day is a deeper issue – the issue of spiritual growth in general.

Every once in awhile, God grants graces that seem to transform our souls from one moment to the next.  St. Ignatius of Loyola, for example, received the grace of infused knowledge in an instant, and he later wrote that he learned more in that moment than in all the years of his avid study for the priesthood. It is also said that St. Thomas Aquinas, after a particular dramatic struggle to resist an occasion of sin, was instantaneously granted the grace of perfect chastity. When God wants to give quick advances and quick victories, he can and he will.

Seasons of Growth

Nevertheless, normally spiritual growth happens gradually, like all growth here on earth. Jesus’ favorite images for the Kingdom of Heaven always involved seeds and plants and growing things (the sower who went out to sow, the barren fig tree, the mustard seed, the farmer who plants his field…). We learn from this that our path to spiritual maturity is not ordinarily a path of immediate transformation. Usually, we grow in Christ-like virtues gradually and seasonally, just as plants grow. For this reason, one of the most important qualities of our spiritual journey is perseverance – not giving up, continuing to seek Christ and struggle to follow him even when we see very little immediate progress. Here’s how Jesus put it in his parable of the sower: “But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance” (Luke 8:15).

Cooperating with Grace

Now we can return to your question. When you ask for the grace to keep a spirit of praise throughout the day, God certainly hears and answers your prayer. For you to desire that grace as passionately as you do, in fact, is already a sign that the Holy Spirit is working to develop it in your heart. So God is sending you his grace, just as he sends the rain and the sunlight to the farmer’s field. But it will take some time for that grace to yield its harvest, just as it takes time for the crop to grow and yield its fruit.

In short, then, you can and should continue to ask God for this grace, but you will need to be patient and persevering before you will see it come to fruition in your life. Part of your patience and perseverance will include cooperating with the grace that God does send you. And this is where all the normal means for spiritual growth come in: frequent Communion and confession; daily mental prayer; spiritual direction; spiritual reading; a reform of life program… All of the things we talk about here at RCSD.

Using the Practical Examen

And in addition to the normal means, it may be useful for you to start using a spiritual tool called the “particular examen.” This consists of taking a few minutes each day, towards the end of the day usually, to reflect on how you have been living one particular virtue that you feel God is asking you to exercise in a special way. Right now, it seems that the Holy Spirit has really put on your heart this desire to maintain a spirit of praise and gratitude throughout the day. This would be the virtue (reverence, gratitude) that God is nudging you to focus your attention on. So each week you could identify a concrete, specific way of exercising that virtue in your daily life.

For instance, you could make a resolution to try and say a silent prayer of praise and gratitude every time you turn the key to start the engine of your car. That would be a way for you to cooperate with the grace God is sending you to grow in this virtue. And then, at the end of the day, you could reflect on how well you fulfilled this resolution – that’s the “particular examen.” And in the following week, you could make a different resolution. In this way, you are making an intentional effort to do your part, while trusting that God will be doing his part. And little by little, his grace will bear fruit in your soul.

To keep you motivated, you may want to memorize this little jewel from St. Paul: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

I hope these thoughts have been at least a little bit helpful. I am sure our readers will have some great ideas as well. Thank you for your question, and God bless you!

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published two other titles: "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently resides in his Order’s General Directorate in Rome, where he is continuing his writing apostolate. His blog contains questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. His online retreats are available at www.RCSpirituality.org.

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  • LizEst

    Thank you Father John. All of what you said is true. Perseverance is key to the life of faith. And, our God is our example! God has so persevered in loving us from the foundation of the world, sending His only begotten Son who persevered all the way to the cross for us in obedience to the Father’s will. And, in addition, the Holy Spirit is God’s persevering love present with us to the end of the age. If that isn’t perseverance, what is? God knows of what we are made and still perseveres in giving us the graces with which to increase in virtue and grow in holiness. We persevere a little…and He perseveres a lot in getting us to heaven. In fact, by yoking ourselves to Him, He does most of the real work! God bless you, Father John…and all our readers here. Happy Memorial Day to those in the U.S.!

    • KAACD

      To quote you, “God has so persevered in loving us from the foundation of the world, sending HIs only begotten Son who persevered all the way to the cross for us in obedience to the Father’s will” touched my heart. It made me think of all the times I fell.

      • LizEst

        You are too kind, KAACD! The glory is the Lord’s. I, too, have fallen many, many times. It still happens. Thankfully, Christ continues to lift us all up, over and over and over again. We have but to cooperate with His grace. It’s one of the secrets of the saints, who also fell and continued to get up each time. “He who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Jesus speaking to His disciples upon sending them out in Matthew 10: 22). God bless you, KAACD!

  • Jeanette

    For awhile, I had a very intense holy desire that I knew was grace inspired and it was very easy to pray for fervently. But, after a while that intensity lessened. I was somewhat upset about that. As I frequent the sacraments of Communon and Reconciliation, I felt that the lessening of desire was not because of sin. The next time I saw my spiritual director, I complained that I didn’t have the degree of intensity of desire for that particular favour that I used to have. My spiritual director told me that I probably still had the desire and I should continue to pray for the favour…which I continue to do. I now believe that God is testing me…to see if I will persevere in prayer for this favour…to see if I really want it; and to see if I trust that He never changes…because if He gave me this holy desire so intensely in the beginning by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then surely He wants it for me. I believe the key that opens the door to spiritual growth is perseverance in prayer for God’s graces. Trust, humility and obedience are very important as well. I hope that my sharing helps someone. God bless!

    • Wretched Sinner

      Thanks Jeanette for sharing.

      • LizEst

        …and God bless you as well, WS!

        • Wretched Sinner

          Thanks LizEst, you’re sweet!

    • LizEst

      Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, in his “The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life” (formerly “The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life”), says, “The important thing to be noticed is that, just as there is the crisis of puberty, more or less manifest and more or less successfully surpassed, between childhood and adolescence, so in the spiritual life there is an analogous crisis for the transition from the purgative life of beginners to the illuminative life of proficients.” You may indeed be moving into a new stage of your spiritual growth. Congratulations!…the important thing is to stay the course, although your desire has lessened! The Lord will reward your faithfulness. “In due time, he will life you up” (1 Peter 5:6b). God bless you, Jeanette!

      • Alexandra Arias

        LizEst, You have beautiful gifts of wisdom and exhortation! God bless you!

        • LizEst

          …and God bless you Alexandra! You are most kind. The glory goes to the Lord…for, “what do [we] have that [we] have not received?” (1 Corinthians 4:7b).

          • Alexandra Arias

            Amen!

      • Jeanette

        Your consistent encouraging and wise advice is a blessing to me and to all that read your posts. Thank you Liz. God bless you too!

        • LizEst

          You are also most kind, Jeanette. All the glory to the Lord!

    • Celeste Lovett

      Yes, Jeanette, your comments are very helpful to me. For the past 3-4 weeks, I have been experiencing a strong desire for prayer, spiritual reading, and just generally spending as much time with Our Lord as I possibly can. I have never experienced this in all my life and I can’t tell you what great joy this has brought to me. My lifetime chronic state of depression has lifted and for the first time in years, I don’t wake up with thoughts of death. My thoughts have been saturated with spiritual matters. As a result of this new and intense desire, I sought out the help of a spiritual director and the Lord answered my prayers with the “yes” of this holy priest. In the back of my mind, I keep wondering if the Lord will continue to provide this grace to me and if He does not, how should I respond. Your post answered my question. The word is “perseverance”, trust, humility, and obedience. Thank you. It is easier said than done, however, it is such a blessing to have experienced this grace of great desire, and that alone should help one persevere through the difficult times toward the goal heaven…the fulfillment of the holy desires of our souls. Thank you…blessings.

      • Jeanette

        Wow, the Lord is greatly blessing you for sure. Stay the course and make friends with Christians who uplift you in your spiritual life. May the Lord continue to bless you abundantly!

  • lpjfmeyer

    Wow Father what a great explanation. I myself have been practicing gratitude and praise as I take care of my 92 year old dad. It’s been over one year and I am super exhausted. The verse in Galatians that you just mentioned has touched my heart so deeply. I will not give up on doing good even if my body is tired. I know God will honor my efforts. Thanks for your blog, videos, advice, spiritual support, etc. . . Blessings!

    • LizEst

      Good for you, lpjfmeyer. Your father is blessed to have your care and assistance. May God bless you.

  • Teresa

    gratitude of praise is done before meals during the prayer before meals my husband and I give thanks on how God has given us his graces, blessings, himself in our lives. Another is the morning prayer consoling the heart of Jesus and prayers to the Holy Trinity and Blessed Virgin Mary. Our life I was taught should be a prayer of praise and although I have fallen short I get back up through the grace of confession and forgiveness, through the Holy Mass and the Eucharist and through Adoration if I can. My question is if you are fighting of a temptation or torment of your soul and you prayed and prayed and confessed and have been doing frequent confession and Eucharist. What are some penances or acts of reparation a catholic can do without permission of confessor or spiritual director.

    • LizEst

      I believe it was St. Therese of Lisieux who used to sit up straight in the pew, that is she did not allow herself to use the back portion of the pew to support her back so that she always sat at chapel as if she were sitting on a stool with no back rest. This was quite easy to do (in terms of managing to do it) and there was no danger of increasing it and risking her health. I suppose it was not always easy to do when she was tired. I think no one noticed it but I believe it’s in her “Story of a Soul” which her superior required her to write. She was the master of doing little penances and reparations.

      Likewise, one could kneel in church during Mass without using the back portion of the pew ahead to rest one’s arms on and thus support oneself.

      Another one could be to always defer to someone who rubs you the wrong way, to greet them and smile at them, ask about their health and family and make a friend of them.

      Another thing could be to park far away in the parking lot at church, or elsewhere, in order to let others park closer.

      You could pay someone else’s way to a church or social event, with the understanding that it was to be done anonymously, for the benefit of someone who is really in need…and without divulging the information to anyone and without knowing who the recipient is.

      The opportunities are virtually endless. I hope these few examples help give you some ideas. God bless you, Teresa!

      • Teresa

        Thank you!

    • http://clinmarjo.blogspot.com/ Maryellen Jones

      I’ve heard of the devotion of Consoling The Heart of Jesus. Is there a particular prayer connected to this devotion? and if so, could you please tell me what that is?
      Thank you in advance

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    An inspiring and encouraging Response. Thank you, Father John

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