Thursday, March 15, 2012

THREE WORDS OF WISDOM

KEEPING A SECRET

Are you able to keep a confidence?  Do you see this as a special virtue? It is my opinion that this "virtue" is becoming extinct in our world, especially in the light of social networking.  People want to tell the whole world what is going on in their lives, revealing personal details about themselves and their friends.

What about living this virtue in the workplace? Are we in a position that requires us to keep information confidential?  Do we abide by this policy?  Do we manipulate people to get information in the workplace for our benefit? These are all questions that can serve as an examination of conscience.

I'm sure we have all experienced the person who has approached us saying, " Don't tell anyone, but..."  Or, " I'm not supposed to say anything, but..." When this statement shows its ugly head, we should stop the person in their tracks before we give them permission to reveal a confidence.  We should do this charitably, of course, by simply saying, "I'm sorry, please don't tell me, I don't need to know this." (Please note, I am not speaking of things that must be reported, such as abuse, etc.)


St. Bernadette is an example of heroic virtue in keeping a confidence. In her apparitions, she was given three secrets from our Lady that she never revealed her entire life.  People tried to get her to reveal the secrets.  They tried to figure it out by asking her certain questions. She would simply reply, "they concern only me." Some people may argue that she had special help from Our Lady to keep the secrets.  I respond that this same grace from the Holy Spirit is available to us, as well. 

When we think of heroic virtue in a saint, we don't usually think of the virtue of being able to keep hidden the secrets of the Lord. Human nature usually cries out for us to reveal to all who will listen what special favors the Lord has given us.  In the spiritual life, people can get caught up in "journaling," writing down every experience that takes place and analyzing and record keeping...this can be a form of vanity and spiritual pride. One needs a spiritual director to understand the motivation to write down his or her experiences.

What about the virtue of keeping silent about our spiritual woks and good deeds? Do we tell people we are fasting?  Do we tell people we are keeping a prayer vigil?  Do we tell people we get up early or stay up late to pray?  Do we account all we have done in charity in the past week?  Do we tell people about our every ache and pain and family problem and work problem and so on... Can we not suffer these things in silence to mortify ourselves and foster the virtue of humility? Can we not keep hidden these sufferings so that they go unnoticed in the world, but pleasing in the Lord's eyes? Let us challenge ourselves to live like the saints.  When reading a saint's biography, consider that there was so much more about the person that was left unsaid. May God be praised!

St. Therese of the Child Jesus' charism in the spiritual life was to keep favors hidden. She wanted to keep hidden her sacrifices and sufferings, her works of mercy and works of charity for the other sisters.  She had a pure heart that was motivated to please God alone. 

There are exceptions to this hidden spirituality of St. Therese and we can see this in the Order of Carmel in our Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila). St. Teresa wrote about her mystical experiences under obedience. She was not one to keep lengthy journals about these experiences, for she writes that if we have a true experience of God it will be impressed upon our heart and we will remember it forever.  She even stated that she had experiences of which the memory never faded, even after 20 or more years had passed.

It takes another virtue, humility, to keep a confidence entrusted to us by the Lord and by our friends.  Secrets of the hearts between lovers are intimate details that should be kept between lovers.  In the spiritual life, when God favors us with experiences of his great love for us, it is impossible to put these encounters  into words, a "built-in" mystical help from the Holy Spirit to help us to remain humble.

Let us pray for each other.


"But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)



Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

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