Tempted in Solitude: Examination of my Fallen Nature
Justin Haggerty | The Daily Knight
(photo credit: crownofthorns.org.uk)
In my solitude, I continued to fail. In a situation and environment, where there exists an infinite abundance of time to pray and meditate on the mysteries of the faith, I allowed myself to slip into spiritual slothfulness and not fully commit myself to the three eminently good works; alms-deed, or works of mercy, prayer, and fasting. Although this has only been a slow decay over the past few weeks, it stands as a microcosm of the greater condition of my fallen nature, that I struggle with as I navigate every week, month, and year of my life.
As a form of an examination of conscience, I wanted to contemplate on my shortcomings over the past four weeks in federal custody and analyze how these failures, in relation to my fallen nature and manipulation by the diabolic, translate to my temporal and spiritual life in general. For most of us in the church militant, it is important to understand that the struggles that we face on a day by day basis, are only magnified week by week and month by month, especially as we fall away from God's sanctifying grace by each venial and mortal sin committed against the Lord.
In the first days of my solitude in the tiny quarantine cell, it was not difficult to practice a rigorous prayer life, even without written materials, often praying three to four Holy Rosaries per day, for multiple intentions, and practicing other devotions and offerings for the intentions of others and the expiration of the sins of modernism. Psychologically, reinforced by the stresses of being without my family and the anxieties of facing such a tribulation as prison, there are barriers that are erected in one's mind that help train the conscience and the will in the desired direction, in this situation being God. This should be of no surprise, in times of great difficulty, many turn to embrace the Divine, seeking the comfort, strength, support, and wisdom that the Almighty can provide. The greater question in this area, how many people remain fixed to the Lord, our Beginning and the End? I have always, in my spiritual life, practice the Faith in periods of grace and, for the majority of the time, links of lethargic spiritual practice, mirrored with temptation, sin, and sorrow. The further I moved away from the Holy Eucharist, the more I slipped into sin, my will cracked and then commitment to prayer subsided. While missing to pray the Holy Rosary at previously scheduled times or skipping certain devotionals an offering at, for example, Matins, Vespers, or Compline, the same temperance and fortitude against concupiscence was reduced or omitted. (Lex Orandi, Lex Crendendi; how we pray is how we believe). As I fell short in prayer, I willfully embrace my fallen nature and opened the door to the diabolic.
Seeing the departure of grace and spiritual vulnerability established by sin and an unsatisfactory prayer life, diabolical forces attack my dreams and thoughts of destruction and temptations of the flesh and the world. Without a strong and stable prayer life and God's grace, it is impossible for a feeble man to resist such assaults. But, by the love of the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ finds me, lost in the dark wilderness, and leads me home to His light. In this scenario, my Roman Catholic daily missal and little office of the blessed Virgin Mary, both of which my most loving wife sent me, arrived to assist me in quarantine. My prayer life improved, praying the hours, additional readings, and following the daily liturgy.
I'm sure you know what happened when I left quarantine and arrived at the camp. Enjoying the comforts of the world in place of the sublime warmth of Christ, I missed praying the Holy Rosary, skipped Lauds, Terce, Sect, None, and Compline, and thought praying my additional devotions and offerings for the intentions of others. My selfishness triumphed and I fell back into sin, far away from God's face.
This all leads me to now, in writing this form of an examination of conscience. I recognize that I continued to abandon barriers that I, with the help of God's grace, built to help orient my intellect and daily schedule to the Divine will and not my own. Instead of allowing this facility to dictate my diet, I must return to my Carmelite practices to partially abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (I have maintained the Friday abstinence). In a small classroom, where I have been reading and writing for the book I'm producing, I have drafted a daily schedule to help ensure that I'm in there during the hours of prayer. To make things easier, even late at night for Compline, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary remains by my side. For Compline, the final readings and prayers are very applicable to my situation of constantly falling away (in ‘sleep’ as the apostles did in the Garden of Gethsemane) from the Lord’s grace.
Second reading, from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable, priest: “by meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God's Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after a day's work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.”
Antiphon Before Gospel Canticle: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.”
As my patron, St James the Greater, abandoned the Lord to His agony as the Apostle slept beneath the olive trees, prayed that I may "keep watch with Christ" and at the moment of my death, "rest in his peace."
In Christ crucified and the most victorious heart of Jesus.