by Catherine Doherty.
I believe that God inspires and draws people, but when he does, it invariably makes some kind of sense in terms of the circumstances surrounding that person’s life.
A woman once wrote to see if she could come and join us. She was absolutely convinced that she had a vocation to Madonna House. When she arrived, it turned out that she also had a husband and five children. It didn’t take much to figure out God’s will in that situation!
This is how God normally works. He speaks to us, but what we hear must be checked out in relation to our responsibilities and our particular way of life.
God directs our lives. Of course he does! He directs them through the Ten Commandments, especially through his great law of love.
We are to love him with our whole heart, mind and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves. By this shall men know you are my disciples, he said, that you love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34-35).
He asks us to love our enemies and to lay down our lives for each other. If we do that, we are certainly being directed by God.
The sanctity of St. Therese of Lisieux was such that she obeyed even those who misdirected her.
She went to the pope for discernment about her vocation, and only then did she enter Carmel. Then she found herself under the authority of a superior who was not very pleasant, but she obeyed to the letter.
Her sense of obedience to the rule was so great that when she was writing and the bell rang, she would lift her pen from the paper without even finishing the letter she was forming.
In the 1930s, I wanted to sell all I possessed, go to the poor, and live alone among them in a sort of "poustinia in the marketplace."
When the idea came to me, I immediately checked it with a priest. I checked it with countless priests. They thought I was crazy. They all discouraged me, saying, "You have a son, and you are both mother and father to him."
They told me that what I thought was an inspiration of the Holy Spirit was a temptation from the devil. One priest advised me to sprinkle holy water on my bed at night. I obeyed him. In fact, I drenched the bed so thoroughly that I had to sleep on the floor!
The discernment of all these holy priests turned out to be wrong, but in the end, it didn’t matter. I did my best to accept what they told me, but I couldn’t get away from the pressure of the Spirit. It became so great that I couldn’t stand it.
What did I do? My father had said to me, "If ever you are in a difficult situation, and you don’t know which way to turn, go to the bishop. He is the father of your soul." So I went to Archbishop Neil McNeil of Toronto, and he allowed me to do what I had to do.
In this way, our apostolate has existed from its very conception under the seal of obedience. I have never disobeyed a bishop or the Church.
A visiting bishop once said, "I’ve heard that Catherine has had many difficulties, but there is one thing she stands for unquestionably. She is obedient to the magisterium of the Church." That is absolutely true.
I have been accused of every sin in the book, but no one has ever accused me of disobeying the Church. Madonna House is founded on this obedience.
I cannot separate prayer and obedience. How can I pray to God, who was obedient unto death, if I myself act contrary to obedience? Christ my brother came to do the will of my Father, and I must do likewise.
We tend to pray with great intensity for the things we want, but do we ever think of praying for what God wants? Usually, when our desire for something cools off, so does our prayer.
It is very important, therefore, that when we pray, we move with the current of God’s will, and not against it. This is true even when we are praying for someone we love tremendously.
When my husband Eddie was in a car accident and I was on my way to be with him, I prayed fervently that he might be well. But in my mind, every second, I forced myself to add, "If it be thy will."
If God wanted to take Eddie home, for whatever reason, I had to be willing to accept it. I had to mentally pronounce words to the effect that I was ready to do God’s will and to move in its stream.
The greatest act of a person is to do the will of God. How do I know his will? How do I know which ideas are mine, and which belong to God?
There is only one answer. To know his will, I must learn how to listen to him. This can happen only through prayer, and under the guidance of a spiritual director.
Try to think of listening as an essential part of prayer. You pray, and you hear the voice of God speaking to you gently, not aloud, but deep in your heart.
If you listen carefully, you will indeed begin to know his will for you. God wants us to do his will, and he gives himself to us continually, that we might follow in his footsteps.
Because you are in love with God, you can relate to him as you would relate to a friend. You can talk to him in order to find out what he thinks. You want to do as he suggests. Listen to him, then, that you may know.
God speaks quietly, very quietly, but he does speak, and he will make known to you what he wants you to do.
You will do his will, and it will be beautiful. To do what God wants you to do is to be truly happy. Sometimes his will may bring pain, but it will also bring you joy.
Everything comes from God, and everything returns to him in our hearts. To give ourselves wholly to God, in prayer and in action, is the life of a Christian, and in it we discover joy so immense that our ordinary, everyday life is completely transformed. We find ourselves living in a new reality.
Listen that you might hear and understand what it is that God wishes of you. Listen to him quietly, and follow him. You will be filled with joy.
You will also be filled with pain, but that makes no difference, for "your mourning will be turned to joy."
—Excerpted and adapted from Soul of My Soul, (2006), pp. 51-55, available from Madonna House Publications.
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