Saturday, September 14, 2013

On living in the present moment

Another amazing passage from Fr. Philippe's book Interior Freedom. (Catholic Mutt, did you get to this part yet? =))

It's in the section called "The Present Moment." Here he discusses how living in the present moment is key to a life of interior freedom because, for one thing, we can only exercise freedom now, in this moment. (One of those "duh" principles that I forget so often - I find myself obsessing over past choices, as if I could change them, or projecting into the future what I "would" do in such and such a situation. Impossible.)

Some of my favorite lines from this section, and why I love them:

"We have very little hold on the future either. Despite all our foresight, plans, and promises, it takes very little to change everything completely. We can't program life in advance, but can only receive it moment by moment."

Amen. This strikes a chord because I want to program life in advance! I want the guarantee that the future will pan out the way I envision it, at least eventually *cough* baby *cough*...receiving each moment as it comes is a challenge. But when I really do it, it's so life-giving. I can take a deep breath, relax, and concentrate on this moment: right now I will love, right now I will accept, right now I will be with God. 

"The ladder of perfection has only one step: the step we take today."

I just love how he says that. Of course I hope for growth in my spiritual life, but regardless of where I've been or where I'm going, the only forward-motion I can make is today.

A quote from St. Therese of Lisieux: "I only suffer for one moment. It is because people think about the past and the future that they become discouraged and despair." Fr. Philippe's commentary: "Nobody has the capacity to suffer for ten or twenty years; but we have the grace to bear today the suffering that is ours now. Projecting things into the future crushes us - not experiencing suffering but anticipating it."

This is the home-run passage for me. The first time I read this (over a year ago) my eyes immediately filled with tears and I had to put the book down and just let these words enter my heart. Not experiencing suffering but anticipating it...yes, I had been doing just that! I've grieved not only the present lack of a child now, but also into the future (IF does that to you!). In my saddest moments, I'm sad not just because of everything I don't have now in terms of motherhood, but everything (so I tell myself) that I will never have - no first steps, no first birthday, no hearing "mama", no little hand in my hand, and on and on until I think I've suffered through the lack of every possible moment from the child's birth until their high school graduation!

Projecting things into the future crushes us...I think that is so true. I just don't know what the future holds for me. I just don't. Yes, I could be childless forever - but won't God give me the grace to bear that, day by day? It's exactly as Fr. Philippe says - no one can bear a 10 or 20 year dose of suffering all at once. And thank God, it doesn't come that way! I only suffer for one moment said St. Therese (during her final illness, by the way). Just in this moment I can bear the suffering of IF. I long for a child now and it hurts now and my heart aches now - but I don't need to anticipate all the other suffering that I'm sure is in my future. This passage had a huge impact on shifting my thinking in that regard.

"The best way to prepare for the future is to put our hearts into the present."

Short and sweet. I want to paint this on my walls, tattoo it on my arm, write it everywhere. When I feel like my life is going nowhere, or like I'm stalled in my tracks, I want to remember this. If I put my heart into the present moment, and really work to cultivate virtue and holiness now - to become more loving, more patient, more like Jesus, then if I become a mother someday, I'll be that much more prepared! And if I don't, well, is it really a loss to be more loving and patient? =)

The bottom line is, I only have today. I only have this moment. Jesus, free me from worrying about the future, and especially from suffering from things that haven't even happened yet. Help me to see You right here, right now. You catch all my tears, and you hold me when I cry. Help me to open my heart to what you are teaching me right now, even in this valley of tears.



  1. The quote from St. Therese took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes immediately. I had read something in my philosophy class about Augustine's thoughts on creation and life that said this: "Life on earth is a sound between two great silences, the silence of the future and the silence of the past."

    These two quotes combined with what Fr. D. has tasked me with have flipped my world upside down.

    1. Yep, my reaction too =) Nice quote from Augustine! Reminds me too of the fact that God is always in the present - there is no past or future for him, only "now."

  2. I have not made it that far yet, but I am LOVING the book! It is so amazing the number of things in it that just make all kinds of sense. I've already ordered a couple of copies for friends, and I was going to do a giveaway yesterday on my blog of that book because I love it so much. (I didn't only because I got hugely distracted by our latest natural disasters.) But I love this point as well. It has made my last year SO much better because I'm not as worried about later, but just living in this moment now. It's amazing how much more good there is in this moment along with the suffering. I'm not sure why we don't project the good as easily as we do the suffering, but we don't (or at least I don't). When I look at the future, I'm so depressed that I often miss the good of the here and now.

    1. Sorry about all you're going through in CO - I've been praying for CO folks!

      You're right - we don't project the good into the future (at least I don't either). Lack of hope maybe? Lack of imagination? Worry that if we project too much good and it doesn't happen, we'll be extra disappointed? (Actually, that last one rings true for me in terms of hoping to conceive each month...have to guard the emotions and not project a miracle pregnancy into the future.)

  3. Thanks for sharing this with us. I also anticipate the suffering but more in the financial way, thinking how I'm going to be able to provide for my family because I stay at home and only my husband works outside the home. But this calms me down:
    "See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither
    do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father
    feeds them. Aren’t you of much more value than they?" Matthew 6,26

    1. That verse is one of my favorites too =) You're right - everything Fr. Philippe said is so applicable to any kind of suffering or situation!

  4. Thank you for sharing. I love his books, but haven't read that one yet. Your post really spoke to me, especially: "The best way to prepare for the future is to put our hearts into the present." Like you mentioned, so often I feel like my life is "on hold" or not moving forward. How beautiful and convicting to remember that we have the "gift of the present" to give to God and to become holier, if we are receptive to grace. ...think I need to order that book. :-)