Meditation 5: The Uphill Battles of Life

A Meditation Novena in the Footsteps of St. Thérèse

written by Fr. Todd Arsenault, LC

Meditation 5:
The Uphill Battles of Life

In early July 2021, I had the pleasure of vacationing with some of my priestly brothers in the Valley of Formazza in the Northwest corner of Italy near the Switzerland border. On a most beautiful day with no clouds and a light breeze, a priest and I decided to climb Mt. Blinnenhorn (3400m) where there was an altar and cross. The challenge: fresh snow for over half the walk with no path. So, we trail blazed. We started at 1750 meters and I wasn’t sure how my breathing would be as we got higher up. I hadn’t hiked at that elevation in years. Yet, I trusted the other priest, an experienced winter hiker, and little by little we advanced. At one point when it was quite steep and we were seemingly not advancing, I stopped a moment to rest, feeling alone and vulnerable, and asked myself: “What am I doing up here? This is crazy!” But I quickly realized that there was little road left to travel and I didn’t feel overly tired, just a bit nervous from the heights and the unknown. So, after a short prayer, I refocused and put my trust in Christ and my guide who hadn’t disappointed. I made it happily to the top–soaking in the beauty of the peaks–as the recently developed clouds broke open to reveal God’s amazing creation. I knew I still had to climb down, but I was so happy to have stuck with it. It was such a gift!

The Christian spiritual life is like this in some ways. It is an exciting prospect of adventure that draws us in, but at times it gets scary out there—tough, challenging, ruthless, tiring for our weak wills, and lonely. Though we are motivated and fixed on the goal of Heaven knowing the Lord is our trustworthy guide, we still must be aware that there are obstacles and the evil one who seeks to discourage us. We need to regularly refocus (spiritual direction, confession, prayer, Eucharist, retreat) and continue with renewed trust in the promises of Christ. He sustains us with the “food” we need to continue onwards in his will.

Scripture passages for reflection: Matthew 1:18-25 & Galatians 5:22-23


St. Thérèse of Lisieux speaking of her weaknesses and her Profession retreat wrote: “Really, I am far from being a saint, and what I have just said is proof of this; instead of rejoicing, for example, at my aridity, I should attribute it to my little fervor and lack of fidelity; I should be desolate for having slept (for seven years) during my hours of prayer and my thanksgiving after Holy Communion; well, I am not desolate. I remember that little children are as pleasing to their parents when they are asleep as well as when they are wide awake; I remember, too, that when they perform operations, doctors put their patients to sleep. Finally, I remember that: ‘The Lord knows our weaknesses, that he is mindful that we are but dust and ashes (Ps 102:14)…. I have frequently noticed that Jesus doesn’t want me to lay up provisions; He nourishes me at each moment with a totally new food; I find it within me without my knowing how it is there. I believe it is Jesus himself hidden in the depths of my poor little heart; He is giving me the grace of acting within me, making me think of all he desires me to do at the present moment.”

In our Gospel passage, St. Joseph loved Mary but was faced with a very important decision. What disposition of soul is communicated in this passage? How does this affect his relationship with God and following the sudden revelation of his will?

St. Thérèse teaches us a valuable lesson about trust. She isn’t caught up in perfectionism but is very conscious of her imperfections. She knows the profound love God has for her. What do I see in this passage? How do I relate or how can I learn from her experience in how I see my dependency on God, his grace, and his will?

What is my “Go-To” to discover God’s will and be fed with the necessary grace? What fruits of the Holy Spirit are present to help me know these are the right “Go-To” items or actions for me?

Colloquy: Lord, I want to follow you wherever you lead me. I am weak, I often stumble but I believe you will sustain me, feed me, enlighten and strengthen me for life’s challenges. Help me to trust in your grace at work in me. Enable me to find my rest in being your child who is loved for who I am and not for what I do. Amen.

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