Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
In the army, everyone has a duty to fulfill. Some are strategists, some are foot-soldiers, some are mechanics, some are medics, some are support staff. All are important. All are needed. This is the time to discern carefully where we are called to serve in the spiritual battle that is escalating all around us. We don’t have to do it all, but we are, each of us, made for these times and entrusted with a unique mission and the grace needed to fulfill it.
Certainly in this battle against “principalities and powers” penance is needed more than ever. Our Lady has told us so herself in every modern apparition, how urgently it is needed. As a reader of this blog, it is safe to assume that you too feel called in some way to answer Our Lady’s call to do spiritual battle through penance.
For new readers, I feel I should inject a bit of my own backstory. In the late 1990s, I began to feel a strong call to a more structured prayer life and more frequent fasting. But by myself, I found I could not stick with anything for long. I longed for a community.
One day I picked up a book that had sat on my shelf unread for 15 years. It was titled “God’s Fool” by Julien Green, and was a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. I immediately felt drawn to the simple holiness of the Saint and searched out Franciscan lay groups online. One of the first sites I found was the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (BSP). When I read their Rule of Life, I burst into tears. It was exactly what I had been feeling called to! The fact that I could do formation online was a plus as I lived in a rather remote area. I entered the 4-year formation process, and in 2007 made my profession to live the Rule for life.
The BSP is an approved private lay association, and while it is relatively new as an association, it is based on an ancient Rule of Life, the one St. Francis originally gave to his Third Orders in the year 1221. The Rule of Life of the BSP, at first glance, seems daunting, difficult even. However, what I have found, and what I tell those just beginning formation, is that if God has called you to this way of life, the grace will come—only when it is needed and not before. It is all Him. None of us can sustain it on our own steam, something that can be said for almost any true calling. God does not want us to succeed; He wants to succeed in us. What at first seems difficult becomes possible and sustainable. Now, over a decade since I made my profession, the Rule of 1221, while it is still challenging, has become as comfortable as an old sweater.
The reason I share all this with you is because of the perilous times we find ourselves in. It occurs to me that the Rule of 1221 was meant for these times. The enemy of souls is waging a vicious and relentless battle against the Church and all those striving to live holy lives. Really, it is no coincidence that God has resurrected this penitential rule in our day. For as Jesus told the disciples, some demons can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.
If you are reading this blog, God has already called you to a life of penance. Penance comes in many forms, but I am asking you to discern whether or not God may be calling you to the BSP and the Rule of 1221. It is true, we can fast and pray on our own for a day or longer and accomplish something, but the real spiritual muscle comes with commitment, time, and training. Who is more formidable, the soldier who just picks up the weapon as needed, or the one who has been training daily for months or years?
Once at prayer, I felt convicted by these words: “Have you done enough yet? Can you say that you have?” I only needed to look at the crucifix to find my answer. “No, Lord, I cannot honestly say that I have done enough yet.” My answer is the same every day. I can always do more.
So, consider this blog post a call to arms. The battle is real, and the armory is full of weapons ready to be shouldered. All we need are soldiers willing to give more. The beauty of it is, as spiritual soldiers we don’t need to be young and able-bodied to march in this army, we just need a willing heart and a solid plan of action.
May God’s holy will alone be done in us and through us for his glory and for the purification of the Church and the salvation of the world.
Merciful Father, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Maranatha!
You may find more information on the BSP at http://www.bspenance.org/. If you have any questions for me, please leave a comment and I will either respond here or email you directly at the email address you provide. All comments must be cleared by me and I will delete any email addresses before doing so. If your comment is for me alone, please begin with the word “private”.