May 28, 2015


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


Greetings to you in the communion of the Holy Spirit!  This Pentecost Sunday, the Church entered the special season in which we celebrate our God who is our gift, our Lord's own Spirit sent to fill His people with power and grace!  What an extraordinary day when those believers were obediently waiting in Jerusalem, the Spirit fell, and their Master's promise was fulfilled.  Because of that day, and since that day, His Presence with and within us has become our ordinary reality.  I pray that the words in this email will breathe hope and strength into your practice of His presence.  I join my heart with yours in this simple but life-changing prayer from St. Augustine of Hippo:  

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit

that my thoughts may all be holy;
Act in me O Holy Spirit
that my work, too, may be holy;
Draw my heart O Holy Spirit
that I love but what is holy;
Strengthen me O Holy Spirit
to defend all that is holy;
Guard me then O Holy Spirit
that I always may be holy.
 

Yours in Christ,

Sarah

On perseverance:  the virtue of stabilitasstabilita

By Sarah Colyn

The Desert Fathers were some of the Church's earliest pastoral care experts.  They
were moved to seek communion with God in the quiet, rugged atmosphere of the Egyptian desert.  In the first generations after Christ's incarnation, thousands of men and women went to live in these tiny communities to pursue union with Him.  Some of you belong to religious orders that are descendants of these groups, and what a privilege it is to have you join us at MPC schools!  The scenic setting of these hermitages brings to mind Leanne's description of the "rigorous but sternly magnificent work"1 of becoming our true selves in Christ.  And as for all who desire to abide in Christ, our spiritual ancestors' most significant choice was not to go to the desert, but rather to stay.

We can imagine a disciple in his austere room, days or weeks into his time at the hermitage.  The excitement of his new commitment is fading, the rough edges of his fellows are starting to rub the wrong way, and character defects and unconfessed sins of the past are surfacing.  As he sits, directed to study, pray, or simply be silent, temptations pepper him at a steady pace:  ideas of other work and service he should attend to, resentment toward the leaders and program he's committed to, frustration that nothing seems to be changing in his soul, doubt that this is really the direction he wants to go in life.  The counsel the Fathers gave such a disciple is sorely needed for us today: stay put.  The seeker's task was to stay.  He was to resist the sense that there was something else he needed to go take care of.  He was to resist the doubt that what was happening in that room was working or was doing any good.  He was to choose stability, to cultivate the capacity to remain in the place where God is at work.  The Desert Fathers called this virtue stabilitas.

About sixteen centuries after the Desert Fathers started recommending the virtue of stabilitas, Leanne Payne was praying through Isaiah 58, "Is this not the fast that I choose," and asked the Lord, "What fast do you desire me to keep?"  His answer profoundly ordered her personal life and ministry:  Persevere with Me as I have persevered with you.  Leanne testified, "I have not arrived, but am still persevering, and find that all my joy and any wholeness as well as ministry that I have is in this fast."2   Truly, Christ calls all His followers to this practice, to keep the fast of stabilitas - remain in Me, abide with Me, persevere with Me, practice My presence.


Our Lord longs for us to stay with Him and His regenerating, transforming work because He longs to make us new.  It's no coincidence that Leanne wrote about perseverance in The Broken Image, a book that demonstrates healing for the deepest damage the human soul can know.  For all who seek such healing for ourselves and others, we will certainly need this virtue of stabilitas, the capacity to persevere.  As we chalk up day after week after month after year of perseverance, we can join Leanne in testifying to the truth of one of her favorite phrases, "The becoming never stops!"  As with all true virtue, stabilitas displays the beautiful mystery of the Christian life: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling - persevere, stay, choose - for it is God who is at work in you - God's own indwelling presence is your hope and confidence (Philippians 2:12-13, NASB).  

1. Payne, The Broken Image, p. 156.

2.  Ibid, p. 145.
 

Thanks to The Heritage of the Desert Fathers project and their website, desert-fathers.com for the images of the West Thebes hermitages.

I would love to hear your testimony of how the Lord has blessed you through perseverance!  Write to me at sarah@ministriesofpastoralcare.com.
 

 


Registration underway for Wheaton, Portland and Ticino schools!

We are grateful for all the people around the world who have registered for one of our upcoming schools.  Registration is still underway for:

Wheaton, Illinois - School will be held July 5-10 - Registration open thru 6/15!
Ticino, Switzerland - School will be October 18-23 - Info in Italian and English!

We pray that you are able to join us at one of these schools.  Please contact Lori Coffey, Registrar, for more information.  
 
The Gift of Battle 
By Leanne Payne
from her newsletter archives, July 1985battle

But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  Matt. 5:39

Such a "hard" saying as this one of our Lord's chases many of us to a full study (time and again) of the Sermon on the Mount. In that discourse Jesus makes statement after statement like this one, and in doing so, contradicts and overturns the best Jewish wisdom of the day. You may want to take Barclay's (or some other fine commentator's) paper-back commentary on the gospel of Matthew along with you on your late summer vacation and study anew these words of our Lord. They reveal, as Oswald Chambers says, "the humiliation of being a Christian. Naturally, if a man does not hit back, it is because he is a coward; but spiritually if a man does not hit back, it is a manifestation of the Son of God in him. When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but make it an occasion to exhibit the Son of God. You cannot imitate the disposition of Jesus; it is either there or it is not.  To the saint personal insult becomes the occasion of revealing the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus." (July 14, My Utmost for His Highest)


This is a wonderful lesson in Incarnational Reality: Another lives in me and He is love. And there is nothing that will bring us back to this most basic of Christian truths like a skirmish with those who hate and malign us. We soon find out if we are battling in our own strength.

In Donald Bloesch's book Crumbling Foundations, published by Zondervan, he writes of our need to pray for the gift of battle. In a section titled "Rediscovering the Spiritual Gifts," he reminds us that "Christians can only live out their vocation by discovering and exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And he mentions this additional gift which is alluded to in both Testaments, one that he believes has crucial significance for our time: "Christians who are under the cross of persecution need to pray for the gift of battle, the ability to endure under trial, the boldness to challenge immorality and heresy in high places. The gift of battle is properly included in the gift of might or power (Isa. 11:2). It is the power to enter into conflict and the stamina not to grow weary. It must be accompanied by and fulfilled in the gift of love, since we cannot wage war against sin successfully unless we love the sinner. We must speak the truth, but we must speak the truth in love."

Once again we are face to face with the essentials. We are either practicing the Presence of Another, or we are striving in our own strength and are growing weary in this day of "crumbling foundations" and spiritual battle. Recently in a Greek Orthodox liturgy this wonderful prayer "leaped up" from the page and now has a permanent and prominent place in my prayer journal. Just in case some of you might feel the need of such a prayer, here it is:
 

Save, O Lord, and have mercy upon those that envy and affront me, and do me mischief, and let them not perish through me, a sinner.


In vital connection with the need for this gift, "Christians who enter the battle against the powers of darkness cannot persevere without a life-support system, without a supportive fellowship that continually holds up its members in intercession to the living God." Those of us who have these support systems are deeply grateful for them, but those who do not have them must pray earnestly for them.


Besides the book mentioned, Dr. Bloesch has written other important theological works, and I cannot recommend them too highly to you who are looking for theological answers to the problems facing us at this time. I especially appreciate the fact that he is building bridges between the sacramental and evangelical worlds - a crucial theological task at this time in history - and Catholics and Protestants alike will be edified by his works. For starters, for Catholic as well as evangelical, I would recommend The Future of Evangelical Christianity: A Call for Unity Amid Diversity (Doubleday). And for one of the finest studies on gender language in the Scriptures, Is the Bible Sexist? (Crossway).
 

Leanne


 


 


 


 


 

Reprinted with permission, copyright 1999-2013 by Pastoral Care Ministries, Inc.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net