Moving Beyond Comfort

Our Lady of Mount Carmel with the Christ Child in the Snow

The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. Pope Benedict XVI

I am a part of a Lenten Ladies group that came together this year to pray and offer support for one another during Lent this year. The agreement among us as we began was that we would be serious about mortification and reparation and that we would really try to work on our root sins. We assessed which were our biggest root sins by using the tools found in Navigating the Interior Life, which breaks down your root sins into three categories of Pride, Vanity, and Sensuality. You will find all seven of the deadly sins can be broken down into these categories.

Our Leader, Ashley Blackburn, showed us how when we recognize the sin we commit most habitually we can identify what gift of ours actually is being stolen by Satan, which is why he tries so hard to hit us in these areas. Satan doesn’t want our gifts being used for God’s Kingdom. We outlined some examples of what this may look like;

To be sure, you have many gifts that Satan may be trying to steal, but this process just helps you to identify some things. Each persons process and gifts will be different because we are all different.

For me, my most of my personal habitual sins fall into the sensuality category. My gifts include prophecy, pastoring and teaching. I have a spirit of anxiety that attacks me. I hate being uncomfortable. I choose comfort to soothe me. I cling to it instead of to God. I have asked God to purge me. Purging hurts. But if we ever want to live in a world of true peace, one which is of God, this purging is necessary. If we want to make it to the glory of heaven, this purging is necessary. This is the path of Sainthood. And we can be purified here or in the afterlife, but all of the Saints tell us that being purged here is better. The longing for God in purgatory is not something we should strive for. We should always strive for heaven in the hopes of purgatory, instead of striving for purgatory, with the possibility of ending up in hell.

If we live our lives seeking the union with the will of God, we may just become a Saint, but the reason we should seek it isn’t because of accolades from others about Saintly glory, but instead because being a Saint is being made into Love. We become another Christ.

We should know that when we pray God will answer our prayer, especially when we pray to be conformed to His will. I have prayed for God to purify me. But I have always deep down wanted a say in how the purification goes. Which isn’t really purifying me, it is just another way of my clinging to comfort. For me, if I pick my mortification to temper my comforts, I am actually really just falling back into comfort. This is not the case for everyone, but for me, it became an earning of purification rather than letting God do the work in me.

So here I was, about to start Lent, working diligently on how I would be purified. I was going to give up sweets, fast more, exercise more. I was going to be made to conform to God’s will by all these things I chose to do.

God had other plans. God decided he was going to purify me in a way that would actually purify me instead of my agenda of how to be purified. And y’all, man does it hurt.

On Monday night of this week my mother fell and broke her hip. We were in the middle of an ice storm and it was an impossibility for me to get to the hospital to be with her, I had to totally surrender the situation to God and trust that she would be cared for.

On Tuesday morning an angel of a neighbor who had a big truck drove me to see my mother. Mom was wheeled to surgery for a hip replacement. My 80 1/2 year old mother has a body that has been battle worn. She cried in pain throughout the day. She has dementia so she was confused as well. She spoke of her dead friends and relatives being in the room with us. She saw the Blessed Virgin out the window (it was a chimney of some sort – but I liked what she was seeing better). I was racked with anxiety that she may die. A second wave of snow and ice came down, I had no car, I decided to settle in the chair the hospital had to sleep in my mask that was required for Coronavirus precautions. I was just grateful they let me in. In no time at all it became apparent that the chair would not stay reclined and I would be catapulted to an upright position if I chose to sleep in this chair. I spent Tuesday night, heading into Ash Wednesday sleeping on the floor of the hospital.

My accommodations leading into Ash Wednesday

Obviously sleep escaped me. I felt jealous of Saint Joseph who so trusted God amid his bewildering circumstances that he was able to sleep.

I should note the blessings that came along the way. There was the surgeon who prayed over my mom for God to guide his hands. There were the nurses who took care of my mom as if she were their own mother. There was the palliative care doctor who told me that God is the author of all life and he is the one who decides when people get to go home. This is just one of the many reasons I love living in the south. That as filled with sin as we all are, people still believe.

As Ash Wednesday progressed, mom spiked a fever. She seemed more confused and lost, and at points wasn’t able to speak or be woken up. For my Ash Wednesday fast of two small meals and one regular meal, I had a brownie for dinner. It was all that was available and I just didn’t think I could cope if I gave up that sweet and ate nothing. I didn’t go to an Ash Wednesday Service, I didn’t watch one online. I did read the Gospel of John to my mother because she had managed to ask me to at one point. May God’s power be made perfect in my weakness.

In the past I would have let the demons of “you’re not good enough to even make the first day of Lent in your mortification and you didn’t attend services,” pummel me. But in my exhaustion I just relied on God and asked him to understand. I know he does.

By Wednesday night we knew mom had an infection and antibiotics were started and she began to improve. On Thursday morning, secure in the fact that she was okay, my husband dug our car out and came and got me.

I was very excited to sleep in my own bed. But when I got home, one of my children had major issues I won’t go into here. I ended up sleeping nearer to them because of the situation.

The demons pummeled me with “what if’s”. I kept being dragged into the past, “what if you had been a better mother? What if you had been a better daughter?” And into the future, “what if your mom dies, what if your child fails?” And sleep escaped from me. I longed for my own bed.

I realized that God was allowing all of this. In fact, when I asked to be purified, God was rejoicing. It means I want to be in union with his will. But it hurts deeply.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Colossians 1:24

As I navigate the next few weeks, I pray for the grace to live in the present moment with God. I ask Him to sit in the middle of the mess I am in. I surrender my parents and my children to Him, for I am not their Savior. I take one breath at a time and one step at a time. I cry a lot. And I can not worry what others think about me. I have only to cling to God. I fully experience these Lenten mortifications that have been sent my way. I am sobbing through them, sometimes unable to catch my breath. But I mean it sincerely when I say, I am grateful for them. I am grateful for a God who took on this lowly flesh and experienced all of this with us. He didn’t have to, but in doing so he opened up heaven for us, if we only let him take us there.

About veilofveronica

I am a mother and wife as well as an RCIA and Adult Faith Formation catechist at a parish in the south. I have 3 children and a great husband.
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24 Responses to Moving Beyond Comfort

  1. Kathleen says:

    Well at least you’re not alone. I have been crying for two days also because of a relationship issue. I have to forgive and keep going in this relationship. I have no one to talk to. I don’t know exactly what God wants me to do, but I’m sure I won’t want to do it. I am hiding in bed much of the time. Reading scripture though has brought me tremendous comfort. He has sent me other comforts and shown me He is here. Yes, we are going to have a tough lent and we need it. We will win with Christ and then we will win the world.

  2. Tanya Wersinger says:

    Praying for you, and for your mom. I know exactly what you are going through, although my mother died 2 years ago on the 25th. She had dementia and fell on her head. It was awful, but we didn’t have all the covid hysteria and my sisters and I were with her when she left this world, it was a holy death full of peace and joy. I thank you so much for sharing the diagrams above, it is very helpful. Stay peaceful in the Lord and under Our Lady’s mantle and guided by Holy Joseph. I’m sensing this is going to be a real Lent, full of growth for a lot of folks. Prayers and love in Christ to you, Tanya

  3. mariehemming says:

    Thank you for sharing. I too struggle with many of the sins you list. You have given me strength. A friend is asking me to bread and water fast with her for 40 days. I can only do this with Jesus accompanying me in the desert. We can do all things with Christ who gives us strength. You are on the cross with Jesus. God bless you and your family. You have been given the gift of charity, the ultimate act of love.

  4. Rose says:

    WoW! How timely and powerful. Your diagrams hit home. I just said a prayer for you and your family. Antcipating a glorious Easter!

  5. joyfulhope20 says:

    Last night I watched a show where one character stated that it was a waste of time to “rehearse a tragedy”. That brings back memories of the deaths of my husband first and then my parents. I see now that I cried so much about my fears, the “what ifs”. (I still do that.) What I know now is that when the much feared comes to pass, if it does, God delivers a “deluge tsunami” of graces. When it happens, you will experience sorrow but maybe also an unexpected joy that you will wonder at. In the future, you may look back with a type of holy amnesia and wonder how you got through it all but big and little miracles will be remembered. That is how I know He was there and how much I look forward to seeing Him.

  6. James Ignatius McAuley says:

    Sue, praying for you, your mom, children and your husband. Hold in there.

  7. Kat Brenner says:

    I am so sorry for what you are going through! I will pray for you and your mom. I was blessed by your post. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. And thank you for the diagrams. I found my copy of the book you referenced and did the root sin exercise, too.

  8. Finnian-John says:

    I had a sort of “unexpected” beginning to Lent as well, but was unable to articulate the experience until I read this entry, Susan…
    Living in Texas, my Lent began early Monday morning (prior to Ash Wednesday) with sub freezing temps as low as -6 (-17 windchill) with no power or heat, causing the churches to cancel all services for the entire week!
    Obviously, that pretty much obliterated whatever preconceived ideas I might have had of getting my ashes and embracing Lent this year in the “usual” manner…
    But then, finding myself “alone” sitting in my “very dark” and very cold living room covered with blankets with a few candles and a flashlight, I turned to the Lord in prayer, reading scripture. Suddenly I realized that God was doing for me what I could not (or rather would not) do for myself! He turned off ALL my customary distractions for a time telling me “Be still and know that I am God”…
    It is as though the Lord told me “My ways are far above your ways” as He led me into a desert where I could either accept or reject His grace. I certainly could have become angry and felt sorry for myself but instead (with His grace) I opted to “embrace” the opportunity to draw closer to Him…
    Wow! Suddenly I entered into a deep understanding of the real value of fasting and abstinence. I came to a place where I could see why the Lord led the Israelites into the desert. Scripture came alive for me in so many ways. Even though it was so cold that I could hardly think at times, I was appreciating the very cold that was causing (painful) discomfort!
    As it turned out, the power went back on early during the day on Ash Wednesday and I so yearned to attend mass but as I said the churches has cancelled all services. After a while I decided to fire up my computer and do a Facebook search of the area to see if by chance “some” church might have a mass and low and behold I came across a lone church that was having a 6:00PM mass! God is s-o-o-o good…all the time!

    Then, this weekend, I came across these two articles that seem to “light up” what God is doing in my life and perhaps the lives of many others at this time:

    https://aleteia.org/2021/02/21/run-to-the-desert-why-we-should-seek-out-this-place-of-struggle/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en

    https://aleteia.org/2020/02/27/are-these-3-temptations-among-the-worst-of-our-times/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en

    Thank you so much for sharing your life experience(s) so candidly, Susan, your writing inspires me to reflect and embrace my own experiences, as you can see!

    May God bless you. your mom, and your family this Lenten season and always!

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  11. Ellen Fielding says:

    I just came back and reread this—it is so deeply challenging and comforting at the same time. Your blog helps me to focus on essentials and to purify my mind when as usually happens it gets way too critical and divisiveness and antagonistic toward others, and also fearful and self-condemning in an unhelpful way. Thank you so much for the deep honesty and hard won insights!

  12. Irene F Helie says:

    Yes, yes and yes.

  13. Js says:

    Thank you for this.

  14. azmom says:

    I love your honesty about the struggles in your life. It helps me to realize we are all on a difficult journey in this “vale of tears”. God bless you for your courage to share with others. You touch many lives with your blog. Please pray for me as I will for you.

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