The Rose (or, Desires and Analogies)

21106-Bouguereau, William-Adolphe

McTurk’s eyes, so like a monkey’s, Philippa had often thought, brilliant in his wizened face, expressive, oddly sad, holding prescience of things far beyond himself, looked at her through the grille and must have seen her distress. Philippa’s usually pale face had a spot of color on either cheek, her eyes, usually so level, were looking down, her fingers, usually quiet under her scapular, were drumming on the sill. McTurk put his hand through the grille and stilled them.

. . . “I will learn,” said Philippa. “I shall hold my tongue, keep myself back, efface my meddlesome self–this me.”

“You can’t,” said McTurk.

“Why not?”

“For the simple reason they will never let you. To deny your gifts would be cheating. We can overcome our second natures, my dear, but not our first . . .”

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep with a mild headache (due to my helplessly restless mind!), I asked Our Lord and Our Lady to give me some light. Light to see. Lately, in this period of “living in the quiet,” so many thoughts and questions have been flowing through my mind, to God and to myself, about life and discernment, my natural desires, my true needs, my vocation, my abandonment to God and lack thereof, my holiness and lack thereof–everything. I’ve been writing about these thoughts so frequently; and, like every person, each day finds me a little older, a little different, and a little closer to eternity. I’m not remaining the same. Sometimes it feels difficult to keep up with my own words; or to make my words keep up with me.

So last night, you see, I was asking Our Lord and Our Lady to mercifully send an analogy floating into my mind. I love analogies. They help me think more clearly, see things more simply, like a child. Analogies to do with the Faith are my spiritual “aha!” moments. I most certainly am one of the reasons Our Lord condescended to speak in parables . . . otherwise I’d be constantly squinting about things.

As nearly everyone who knows me, or who reads this blog, has ascertained, in my heart I desire marriage and motherhood very, very much. And the desire is just not abating. What has changed in me, over the course of time and thanks in no small part to my experience of the Latin Mass, is my desire for God’s will in my life, and I attempted to share this in my most recent article on 1P5.

Entrust yourself completely to My will saying, “Not as I want, but according to Your will, O God, let it be done unto me.”

-Our Lord to Saint Faustina, Diary, 1487

I am young, obviously, and not an expert on anything to do with the spiritual life, with the Faith, with loving God . . . not with anything. (Except the best kinds of chocolate, and the best film moments in The Lord of the Rings. I’ll claim a little expertise there.) And so I pray; I think; I write; I read; I pray some more; I speak to those who know far more than I do; I speak to those who are in the same place as I am; I try to continually be open to God’s will, to be constantly united to Him in a spirit of love and prayer (ha! How often I fail at that on a normal day!) and I oscillate between various modes of trying to show Him that I do want His will to be done in my life, which surely must make Him smile with infinite, paternal love.

Everything I’ve written to do with God’s will, I believe in with all my heart. The complete surrender of oneself and all one’s desires to God, the complete openness to, and desire of, His will, is the narrow, rocky path that every Saint traveled up on their sojourn to heaven. It’s the one I’m trying to follow in my own clumsy fashion.

But last night, I was beginning to realize that I, in my interior life, had been sometimes mistaking authentically surrendering myself and my desires to God’s will *with* striving mightily not to think about these desires of mine and to simply give God an empty heart until He tells me, for sure, what my vocation is, and enables me to do it.

I guess it’s rather a fine line. But striving to squelch my desires in an effort to leave myself completely open to God’s will was becoming increasingly difficult to do. To put it mildly. Because whenever I would feel incapable of not thinking about how much I truly desire to be a wife and mother . . . I would be confronted with the thought that I might not be desiring God’s will so much after all. This became something of a slightly torturous impasse, which led me to where I was last night, in bed, praying for light and for an analogy.

Put your heart aside. Duty comes first. But when fulfilling your duty, put your heart into it. It helps.

-St. Josemaria Escriva

I think I fell asleep while praying. Earlier this morning, I woke up with the same thoughts circulating; I rose, dressed, said my morning prayers, got ready to stream the FSSP’s daily Mass with the rest of the family. Today, in the Old Calendar, is the feast of St. James and the commemoration of St. Christopher. I stuck bookmarks into my Missal (because I stubbornly don’t want to move my ribbons), knelt, and prayed as Mass began.

And, for whatever reason, I began thinking of St. Therese, and flowers.

There is a moment in the wonderful film Therese (starring Lindsay Younce), where she has just left Rome and returned to her family’s house, having been unable to obtain permission to enter the Carmelites, even after her audience with the Pope. She is lying in bed, looking wistfully at a picture book of St. Joan of Arc. In her narration, which punctuates the film, she then remarks, “I never gave up hope that God would grant me my desires.”

Something about the childlike trust of her statement pierced through the clouds and filled my heart, this morning while praying along with the Mass.

I want to give God all of me. That is, after all, what being a Saint means–you have given yourself completely to God, without holding anything back, for love of Him. Now, for reasons of His own, God saw fit to allow me to grow up with these fervent desires in my heart. I have prayed so much that I’ll know and do His will in my life; and so far, He has permitted these desires for marriage and motherhood to not only remain, but to be purified, to strengthen, to flower. I am drawn to the Sacrament of Marriage because it was instituted by Christ to beget life, to bring new precious souls into His kingdom, and so that the spouses can offer one another love, loyalty, encouragement and mutual assistance through this vale of tears; they help one another to become saints.

These desires are part of me. I am open to changing. But, in this context, I can’t change myself; Our Good Lord would have to change me, if that’s what He wanted. And so, with this in mind, I am not really giving God all of me if I attempt to give Him my heart, empty of these longings.

I do not want to spend my time praying for things I want, so to speak; every time I pray, I want to tell God that I desire His will, and not my own; but at the same time, I can’t hide some of my deepest desires from Him in prayer. I shouldn’t! He is my Father, my Creator, my first and last Lover. I exist because of His love for me.

Whatever God wants.

-St. Gianna Molla

As I thought of St. Therese during the early part of Mass this morning, I was presented with the similarity of desires to flowers. (And I apologize to the male readership of this blog. I may have just lost you 😀 ) The desire for the Sacrament of Marriage is a good desire. Even if, for whatever reason, it is not God’s will for me, it is something good.

So let’s call my desire for Marriage a rose, growing up since childhood in my heart. I didn’t truly know the full beauty of this rose, and so my desires to keep the rose and eventually receive a whole bouquet of them certainly weren’t perfect. But over time, my mind and heart have learned more from God, have become clearer and purer through His grace, and the rose is growing and unfolding in me, under the sight of God, daily. This rose is a desire for something good, something beautiful; it fills my heart with a fragrance that brings me both spiritual joy and longing.

When God asks me to give Him everything I am, He isn’t asking me to first tear the rose from my heart, trample it or hide it, and to give Him an empty heart in case He should wish to plant in my heart another flower–a desire for a different vocation. He is too tender for that. He is simply asking me to show Him the rose, in all its beauty and its potential; and to offer it as a gift, whole and entire, to Him. He is asking me to open my heart and show Him the rose in all trust and vulnerability. He alone can take it away from me, and give me either a hundredfold of what I desire, a bouquet of roses–or something different; something better.

He alone knows what He wants of me. But I realize now that my very desire for the Sacrament of Marriage can be a made into a gift to Him; not a sacrifice to be burned up, to be torn away, but a beautiful gift, a flower–a gift that exists and puts off fragrance, instead of the gift of forced emptiness and me constantly saying in tones of muted distress, “I’m waiting! I’m waiting! Tell me!”

So from now on, I give Him the rose. I show it to Him with excitement, with love and with hope. Like a child. And if He gently takes it from me and instead presents me with the lily of perfect chastity, I’ll rejoice. I see now that that’s all He’s asking of me for today. I want to give Him everything–and this rose, this desire for Marriage, has become deeply a part of me. It’s His, either to transform or to allow to remain. It’s highly possible this rose is the sign of my vocation, and the thought of that brings me delight and peace beyond words. I can’t describe, or even begin to imagine, the utter joy and peace of soul I will feel if He gives me a good, holy husband and beautiful children. Sometimes just contemplating this brings me to tears–and they’re tears of wonder and joy. Not of pain or even loneliness or impatience. Just wonder and joy and fullness.

But even if this vocation is not what He has in mind, I trust Him. I thank Him for the rose, for the desire, for the gift. I accept the present moment with all my heart, and I look forward to the future He has written for me with gratitude. My heart is ready.

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of affliction, to give you an end and patience. And you shall call upon me, and you shall go: and you shall pray to me, and I will hear you. You shall seek me, and shall find me: when you shall seek me with all your heart.

-Jeremias 29: 11-13