It’s not often that I find a ‘spiritual’ book that inspires and feeds me, but I have discovered the writings of Andre Louf, a Trappist monk who was Abbot of a monastery in Katsberg in France.
I spied one of his books when visiting our local little convent of the Community of St Mary the Virgin. It was the title that attracted me: Mercy in Weakness. That’s something which means a great deal to me.
I’m dead chuffed to find his books are available through Amazon, so I can have my own instead of needing to take them back to the convent library! My times with God take ages these days because I have to keep stopping and savouring what Louf says.
Currently I’m reading a book called ‘Tuning in to Grace’ and the chapter of the moment is named ‘Between weakness and grace’, which is always where I think I am. But Louf puts it all so clearly, and it rings so true, even in translation. I have trouble sticking to just one short portion each day – I always want to read the next bit.
He talks about the way that we (Christians) can get into the bad habit of thinking that the spiritual life is a ‘ladder’ which we have to climb to ‘achieve’ perfection. This idea has a long pedigree, but I realised a long time ago that it just doesn’t work for me – it ends up with us thinking far too much about how we’re doing, and in the process taking our attention away from God who is our source of life.
He dwells on Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the Publican (nothing to do with pubs – he was a tax-collector and therefore a baddie in those days – worked for the occupying Romans!) The Pharisee was the ‘goodie’ – kept all God’s rules. In his prayer he thanks God that he is superior to others, especially to that wretched taxman over there.
Meanwhile the said taxman simply asks God to have mercy on him. He is only conscious of his littleness, of his need for God. It is people in this category who can connect with Jesus, because they are the ones for whom he came.
Louf says: ‘The temptation to a legalistic perfection constantly crops up. Especially in periods of spiritual decline there is a great danger that certain forms of committed faith … will be seriously infected by it, although one does not immediately realize that a basic change of direction has occurred … it then turns into merely human effort, a fortress into which one retreats in order to have a position of strength in relation to others, and sometimes even in relation to God …(ouch, how true that can be!) … but then repentance is no longer the miracle of grace that transforms a human being from tip to toe, the threshold one must cross in order to start a new existence and to become totally free and open to the magnetism of the Holy Spirit.’
Lord, help me always to be open to your truth and to be honest with you and with myself, because your truth sets me free.