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Kempis on: Acquiring Peace and Zeal for Perfection



John 14:7


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.


 

I'd like to begin by asking something of you. A little exercise if you will. Before you read any further, I would like you to close your eyes and think of a time, place and instant where you were at total peace.



Have you thought about it? Now, reflect on it for a few moments. Think about everything around you at that moment in time where nothing mattered but serenity.





I've had a few of those moments but it's probably the most recent one that gives me pause.


Last October 13, 2022, I went to the hospital for a fusion of my L3, L4 vertebrae. The procedure was supposed to last about 75 minutes. When I woke up in recovery I was confused when I looked at the clock and saw it was 6pm. "6pm?" I asked. "How long was my surgery?" I was then informed it was a 6 and 1/2 hour surgery. There is no need to bore you with details as to the reason, but I was shocked. I immediately wiggled my toes and moved my arms, and everything worked. So, why the extraordinary length of surgery?


Over the course of the next two days, after I was able to get out of the hospital bed and sit in a lounger, I found myself in an unordinary quiet hospital room, sunshine and no noise. I was in total tranquility. I was content to sit in the lounger and reflect. And since that day I have been even more dedicated to God. Many of my outside interests were gone. All I wanted to do was think about God, Jesus, Mary and Mother Church. At times, it felt like I was in a trance, only focussing on everything good.


I am not claiming anything supernatural happened, no apparitions, voices in my head or anything like that, but I did remember the day of my surgery was the 106th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima. (Coincidence, I wonder?) I have pondered the question of anything 'heavenly' happening to me during the operation, but the result is nothing. Not a thing comes to mind. All I know is, that day was bliss. In fact, I was in very tolerable pain; not excruciating as I dealt with for a back and ruptured quad surgery in previous years.


After I got home from the hospital, I picked up "Imitation of Christ", for the second time, this time taking notes and how I should do as Thomas Kempis wrote. If I wish for people to see the Jesus in me, I needed to imitate our Lord.


There is a line in the book, "The Father Speaks to His Children", We have a Father who is infinitely good, infinitely rich and greatly merciful. He thinks about us and is close to us. He looks after us, supports us. He will give us everything we need if we ask Him. All his riches are ours, we will have everything we need.” Doesn't that sound wonderful?


Notes from this Kempis chapter:


We should enjoy much peace if we did not concern ourselves with what others say and do, for these are no concern of ours.
Blessed are the simple of heart for they shall enjoy peace in abundance.
Why were some of the saints so perfect and so given to contemplation? Because they tried to mortify entirely in themselves all earthly desires, and thus they were able to attach themselves to God with all their heart and freely to concentrate their innermost thoughts.
We are too occupied with our own whims and fancies, too taken up with passing things.
We are not inflamed with the desire to improve ourselves day by day; hence, we remain cold and indifferent.
If we mortified our bodies perfectly and allowed no distractions to enter our minds, we could appreciate divine things and experience something of heavenly contemplation. (my emphasis)

The numerous times I complained about how people drive, what things bothered me about people and, simply, things I couldn't control. I didn't have peace. I was too involved in trying to understand why people do the things they do. There's an old saying about worry: "Can you do anything about it? Yes? Then, why worry?" "Can you do anything about it? No? Then, why worry?"


Regarding a zeal for perfection, the "Imitation of Christ" lit a fire. As a sinner, I accepted that I can't be perfect, but what I can do, and have been attempting to do, is persevere in following the footsteps of Jesus.


For a long time I was confused by Mathew 5:48, "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Perfect? Only God is perfect so why should Jesus expect that of me? I prayed a lot about this and eventually found my answer in one of my favorite New Testament books... James. In James 1:4 he writes, And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (my emphasis)


Ahh, that I can do.


Kempis:

The only obstacle, is that we are not free from passions and lusts, that we do not try to follow the perfect way of the saints. Thus when we encounter some slight difficulty, we are too easily dejected and turn to human consolations.
If we were to uproot only one vice each year, we should soon become perfect.
If you do not overcome small, trifling things, how will you overcome the more difficult?
Resist temptations in the beginning, and unlearn the evil habit lest perhaps, little by little, it lead to a more evil one.
If you but consider what peace a good life will bring to yourself and what joy it will give to others, I think you will be more concerned about your spiritual progress. (my emphasis)

I have once vice... fantasy football. The money I spend on it is minimal and the fun lasts months. But I have disconnected from many things in my life, and people, that negatively influenced my disposition. In fact, Kempis has a short chapter where he writes about a monopolistic life. That is the life he chose, along with his brother. I think about that lifestyle and, at times, it sounds good. But, I'll write about that in a later post. (I can't think of a hermitage where fantasy football would be allowed.)


I've realized that once I found peace, I was able to better center my direction toward perfection, understanding that my perseverance must be perfect. To do this I must remain dedicated to prayer, have charity and endure the negativism that surrounds me. Again quoting from the book, "The Father Speaks to His Children", God tells Mother Eugenia, "Call Me your Father, love Me in spirit and truth, and this will be enough to make this refreshing and powerful water quench your thirst. Call Me by the sweet name of Father and I will come to you."


God Bless you

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