Army of Heaven
For All Saints Day, Fr. Peter Stravinskas recently provided a list of seven practices that, taken together, lead to a life of holiness. They also lead to a life of purity, the singular focus of our little group. Holiness attains purity. The Army of Heaven knows that the quest for purity is a quest for grace. Jesus is Grace Itself. Here then is the list, configured for the recovering.
1 Be childlike. With all the saints, but most keenly the more recent like St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina Kowalska, it is revealed that littleness or spiritual childhood or creature nothingness, is the perfect basis of true humility. If we can be deeply humble, evil will have no ‘purchase’ upon which to tempt us. The sin of lust is a sin of pride. It is also a sin of greed, greed for a controlled substance, which is a snare and an idol. How to be so small? By grace. Grace comes from God. And so, as children, we let God be Our Father, the one and only Provider, yes even provider of the humility and desire to oppose uncleanness of heart. Recovering, we need to be radically dependent on grace, and this way is acquired through prayer, the humble request to God.
2 Have strong love for the Eucharist. The catholic Mass is the center of all Christian prayer, the pinnacle of actual grace. To eat the body and blood of God Himself is to allow the power of rectitude to enter directly into one’s own body and soul. For the Mass to be efficacious, the Mass-goer must have faith, and just as preciously, love of the One who feeds him. The more Jesus is loved in His eternal substance the more lavishly He gives grace to His famished lamb. The Mass is the Church’s greatest, most beneficial of all prayers: “Grace Central Station”
3 Devotion to the Blessed Mother This one is simple but a stumbling block to too many. Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the only sinless human, Mother of the Christ, by virtue of her being possessed by grace, conquers the Tempter. She is portrayed again and again standing on the Snake with only one foot. She is the Queen of Humility, the effortless destroyer of temptation and sin. What is our job then? Let her be our Mother. What does so pure a Mother obtain for us? Everything!... protection, counsel, direction, discernment, strength, meekness, gentleness, humility… How? By faith, faith in what she is, what the Church has proclaimed her to be, the Mediatrix of all graces!! Where are those graces all from? God! Need further convincing? Go to the Army of Heaven website, to the saints & intercessors page, read Jesus’ word on who His Virgin Mother is, why she is perfect access to God‘s powers. For us, she is the Matriarch of Immaculate Chastity! Why wouldn’t we ask for and treasure the help of the Peerless Saint of Purity?!
4 Do ordinary things extraordinarily well This too is deceptively simple, and yet utterly obvious. The escape from impurity is a journey into virtue. Instead of the mind being occupied with the content of sin, it comes to prefer the content of its replacement: Life or non-sin! Life is a series of simple tasks and if they are all taken care of in a perfect way (as unimprovable), then sin can have no place to enter us, because we are a being occupied by all that is the opposite of it. How is this accomplished? By grace! How is grace obtained? Through prayer, through sacramental reception, through merit of right intention, through corporal works of mercy. By the way of grace, God Himself comes to live in us and does in us only what is clean and right. A high level of union with God like this, is the work of a deep prayer life.
5 Allow suffering, accept everything Purity is costly, holiness is costly. Rightly so: strictness is not fun but it is good. Suffering is purification and a test against human pride of life, creature liberty and egoistic will. Comfort, satisfaction, contentment, pleasure, indolence are all common attachments. Sins can quickly follow the rejecting of something painful but good. Lust says: “I will enjoy stupidity”. This is the saddest kind of defiance. Pride is in some way underneath all creature disobedience, and especially horror and resentment of suffering. There is only one way to cry out to God, humbly and for Mercy. When pain comes, we stop over-reacting, we instead dare to look incisively at the difficulty itself, and finally, calmly beyond it to the Lord! This kind of grace is obtained through the silence ‘that becomes prayer’, being able to sit still with Jesus without word or thought. When resentments disappear, no matter what ‘negative’ greets us, victory is very near.
6 Desire to please God This is close behind the previous one and begins with being able to trust God. It is the fruit of love, of being amazed at Who God is and what He alone does. We don’t want to love God sometimes because we are ambivalent about permitted evils, unexpected sufferings and inconvenient pain. But He can bring wonderful things out of all these. We struggle to see the hidden fruit of suffering, and so the real demand of holiness and purity is patience. If we finally want to please God, this is an enormous sign of being released from addiction to self and its perpetrators pride, resentment, indolence. Pleasing God is like a new world. We come finally to His True ‘Fatherness’, to see deeply the kindness and mercy that would only come from a genuine loving Father! God wants good for us, He really cares about us, He wants things to go well, He wills our health and welfare. Trust is the beginning of being able to desire to please God, and then at last to actually please Him.
7 Have a sense of humor, be joyful Mother Theresa said life comprises really only two things, suffering and laughter (!) The pain of suffering is not with time “sterilized” out of life somehow, but we can have some kind of quiet, graced triumph over it. Right attitude transforms everything (pray for it!). If hard things are accepted and offered up, God will come and bear them for us, reduce their severity or vanquish them completely! Knowing this yields “the laughing man”, every darkness is defeated, by the tender presence and loving help of God, whenever invoked by a trusting child. Who is like God??!! To those who love Him, actually love Him, God swallows up everything before us that is ungrace.
God almighty give us the one essential thing -- the firm desire to conquer lust. Give us at least the grace of perpetual prayer to obtain this very desire. We believe you can grant this for we ask with faith in Jesus name. Amen.