November 27: St. Maximus, Bishop

The saints are models for our lives.  By reflecting on their stories, we grow in sanctity and improve in various aspects.

ST. MAXIMUS was born in Provence, France.  From his earliest years he gave evidence of more than ordinary virtue.  After living a saintly life in the world for some years, he finally retired to the famous monastery of Lerins, where he was kindly received by St. Honoratus, by whom it was governed.  When the latter had become Archbishop of Aries in 426, St. Maximus was chosen second Abbot of Lerins.

The reputation of his sanctity drew crowds to the island, and the monastery prospered under it about seven years when the See of Reiz in Provence became vacant.  Finding that he was wanted to fill it, he fled to the coast of Italy; but he was overtaken, brought back, and forced to accept the new dignity.  In this position, he continued to wear a hair shirt and to observe the monastic rule insofar as his duties allowed.

He assisted at the Council of Riez in 439, the first held in Orange in 441, and at that of Aries in 454.  He died before the year 462.

PRAYER  Almighty and ever-living God, You willed to make Bishop St. Maximus rule over Your people.  Grant by his interceding merits that we may receive the grace of Your mercy.  Amen.

From Lives of the Saints No. 870/22.

“he was overtaken, brought back, and forced to accept the new dignity.”

What a way to put it!  How would we feel if we were given a promotion at work that we really didn’t want, quit our job, moved to another city, only to be brought back and forced to work!  Many of us would resent it.  Most of us would resent it.  St. Maximus was human, so he probably resented it too, until he learned and accepted that he was doing what God willed for him to do.

Here is the key difference between the saint and everyone else: the saint puts aside his resentments for the greater glory of God!

Our stories aren’t as far from St. Maximus as you may think.  Substitute his bishopric with the program.  After I entered the program, I ran from it until God Himself dragged me back to it.  On surrendering to His will for my life, I have learned a new freedom and a new dignity!

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Own up

Humans have a tendency to want to cover up their mistakes like a cat leaving the litter box.  I say humans because this is not a trait exclusive among addicts, though addicts, especially sex addicts, seem to be the experts at this.  Like the “Private Browsing” feature?  Thank a sex addict who couldn’t remember to clear the history.

Just like the cat, however, when we try to cover  up our mistakes, we’re not fooling anyone.  When we ourselves are wronged, often the most frustrating part is that the other person wouldn’t just up own up to his actions.

It’s a common theme in twelve-step meetings to hear someone admit that the truth would have been easier; there was no benefit to lying, but lying became the normal thing to do.  It’s a habit that’s deleterious on our relationships.

Own up to your actions.  If you make a mistake, be it in your personal or professional life, admit to it.  Face the consequences.  The internet’s way of saying this is TIFU: “Today I F-ed up.”

TIFU at work.  Ten thousand excuses went through my head.  What should I say? What should I do?  In the end, I simply stated, “I messed up.”  I didn’t give an excuse.  I didn’t rationalize my actions.  I didn’t defend myself.  I simply owned up and confessed my mistake.

This vulnerability is frightening because we don’t want to face the consequences.  But we will face them regardless.  Lying only increases the consequences.  Remember, too, that people in general lie so much that the other person almost always expects a fight.  It often disarms them to let your guard down and admit your mistake.

Possible things

My confessor recommended to me that I meditate on the passion so that I can come to a greater understanding of God’s love.  His instructions were to simply read a passage from the Gospel, and quietly listen for what God has to say.  Sounds simple enough.

Yesterday I was reading the 14th chapter of Mark, when Jesus is in Gethsemani.  My eyes fell upon these words, “And he saith: Abba, Father, if all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me; but not what I will, but what thou wilt.”

I stopped.  Something didn’t seem right.

So I read them again, this time more carefully.

And he saith: Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me; but not what I will, but what thou wilt.

What happened?  The first time, my brain added two letters before the word all: “if.”  I added a condition to what Jesus said.  Certainly our Lord knows that all things are possible.  I’m the one who introduced doubt, my doubt.

It made me wonder: how much of my prayer life has been conditional?  Have I been praying, “If you can do this God…” rather than “If you will do this God…” or simply, “Thy will be done”?

Jesus probably prayed more than these words.  He was there for an hour.  But the evangelist records only this one bit.  Jesus affirms the power of God.  He makes His request.  Then He surrenders to His Father.

Here we have the first three steps: we admit that we are powerless over sex addiction and that only God can restore us to sanity, we come before God with our needs, humbly and sorrowfully; and we surrender our lives to Him.

Remember the passion of our Lord when working the steps.  Remember them year round, not just during Lent.  Find an hour every day to enter the garden and pray with Him.

 

Going too far

When working with teenagers at my church on the subject sex and chastity, the question often asked is, “How far is too far?”

My addict brain asks the same question. “What can I do that won’t cross into my inner circle?” I would mistakenly believe that the middle circle is for behaviors I “get to do” rather than the ones that lead me to my inner circle.

The question is best answered this way: if I want to know how far I can lean over the edge of a cliff without falling, the only way I’ll find out is when I start to fall. 

Stay away from the edge. 

“The assembly believed them” Susanna Part 4

The assembly believed them, because they were elders of the people and judges; and they condemned her to death. – Daniel 13:41

Earlier in the story of Susanna, the elders conspired together to gang rape her.  They sneaked into her garden and threatened her.  If she didn’t submit to them, they would say that she was fooling around with a young man.  “Who will the people believe?” they might have asked.  “The respected elders and judges of the community, or a worthless woman?”

Indeed, when they tell the story of what didn’t happen, the people believe them, even though such things were unheard of with Susanna.  These men were in positions of authority.  They were civil as well as religious leaders.

One injustice begats another.  How often in your acting out have you also lied and caused calamity to come upon the innocent?  Has your acting out damaged relationships with your spouse?  Your parents, brothers, sisters, or extended family?  What about your children?  Very likely, some of your relationships have been harmed.

Many sex addicts are tempted to immediately go into Step Nine, making amends.  That is natural.  When we realize that we’ve done wrong, if we are truly sorry, then we should want to make amends.  That’s an important part of penance in the sacrament of confession, too.

However, we must not rush into our amends.  This can make problems worse.  Remember, we may be ready for amends, but the people we hurt may not be ready.  A sponsor can help you know when to make amends, if ever.  Sometimes amends must be spiritual only.

Small amends can be made at any time.  If you are on decent terms with another person, start doing small things for them.  They don’t need to know why.  Just be kind, courteous, and helpful.  If you are not on good terms with someone, make time to pray for that person.  Have a Mass offered for them.  I have had Masses offered for people that I will never be able to make amends for, because they are dead, or doing so will cause more problems than it’ll solve.

Find a sponsor, work with your sponsor, and go to confession!

“they were watching” Susanna Part 3

Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was very hot. And no one was there except the two elders, who had hid themselves and were watching her. She said to her maids, “Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I may bathe.” They did as she said, shut the garden doors, and went out by the side doors to bring what they had been commanded; and they did not see the elders, because they were hidden. – Daniel 13:15-18

One inner circle behavior wasn’t evident until a therapist helped me see it.

It’s easy to read this story and see the judges’ faults of lust, plans to gang rape Susanna, and lies under oath.

Do not miss their voyeurism. It is easy not to spot it in the story or in your own life.  I spied not how I spied others.

At the beginning of this story, the elders are watching Susanna come and go.  Here, they’re watching her as she goes to bathe.

One behavior led to another. Had the elders practiced custody of the eyes, they would not have lusted to the extent they did.  They would not have turned their eyes from Heaven. They would not have conspired together to sin more gravely.

In my life, I called voyeurism by innocuous names like “people watching” and “curiosity.”  It started as a glance, then a stare, then a peep through closed window blinds.  Next I bought binoculars and a camera.  I took the pictures with me when I was alone, and pleasured myself to them.

I never committed a rape, but neither did the judges.  Why?  The circumstances were not right.  Had things been different, could I have attempted it like them?  Could I have lied in court like them?  Could I have gone through with it?  Could they have?  The answer to all those questions is yes.

God’s grace has pulled me away from this darkness.  I repent and choose to follow Him.

“They confessed their lust” Susanna Part 2

They said to each other, “Let us go home, for it is mealtime.” And when they went out, they parted from each other. But turning back, they met again; and when each pressed the other for the reason, they confessed their lust. And then together they arranged for a time when they could find her alone.” – Daniel 13:13-14

In SAA, it takes only two people and one share to make a meeting.  The meeting between the two judges was definitely not an SAA meeting.

Rather than confessing their lust and repenting of it, rending their garments and covering themselves in ashes, they conspired together.  These wicked men were willing to share her in raping her.

It’s a poorly kept secret that sometimes twelve-step meetings, including S groups, are places that people meet for sex.  I have heard AA members refer to joining an S group as the “13th step” since they learn, through all their AA hook-ups, that the alcohol is merely masking their sex addiction.

S meetings often have a disclaimer that says something like, “meetings are not the place to find a sexual partner.”  It is also advised that you do not choose a sponsor to whom you are sexually attracted.

Earlier in the chapter we read that the judges were full of shame.  Instead of bearing their shame to one another, they buried it.  If we do not bear our shame to one another at our meetings, they can become a dangerous place that lead us to act out rather than recover.

To avoid this, we must commit ourselves to rigorous honesty.  We must be willing to be introspective and find our character defects so that God can remove them, and we must then share them at our meetings and in the Sacrament of Confession!