About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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“I grew up listening to Lessons & Carols from Cambridge and that was Advent-Christmas for me. Then I moved to Rome and discovered Rorate Masses, the Novena of the Immaculate Conception with the Tota Pulchra, the Christmas Novena, the O Antiphons, the Aspiciens, the Rorate Coeli, the Alma Redemptoris Mater: that's Advent for me now. I am glad to see seminarians all over the United States doing Lessons & Carols, but are they learning our ancient Roman traditions alongside a 20th-century Anglican one?”
— Rev. Christopher Smith

   Send an E-mail to Dr. Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.
Humility vs. “Heroic Virtue.”
published 9 February 2013 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

AM appending here wonderful advice from a retreat in 1996:

“This next part of the journal is about my December retreat at St. Andrew’s Abbey at Valyermo, California – I am an Oblate of this Benedictine Monastery and the private retreat was given me by Fr. Gregory Elmer, O.S.B., a very dear old friend who has known me for more than twenty-five years. A private retreat can take place when someone goes to a monastery for a quiet time outside the days given over to planned public retreats with many other participants. A monk or nun agrees to work with you personally on whatever issues you choose to bring.

Fr. Gregory is around fifty years old. I first met him when he was studying theology at Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles as a young monk. I was a young philosophy professor at the same place.

Fr. Gregory and I are most different in that he is a celibate monk and for most of my life I was a married mother. Most of all he is very inward and contemplative and I am extremely extrovert and active. On the other hand we have a great affinity because both of us suffered from similar childhood emotional problems and tend to reach out to Jesus in a certain desperate and passionate way not easily understood by more serene Catholics.

Coming this time for a retreat at this rustic desert monastery there was a new feeling of solidarity with the monks. I had tried being a religious widow in the Handmaids of Nazareth and my private promise also puts me in a different mansion of the kingdom than a married widow or a single widow hoping to re-marry. I felt joy in knowing the perseverance of my brother monks after so many years in their vowed life.

Fr. Gregory suggested that the theme for this private time with the Lord should be total surrender to Christ.

Here are some of Fr. Gregory’s main insights. I am paraphrasing his words.
“Ronda,” said Fr. Gregory, eyes full of amusement, “it is just like you to think that you will grow in holiness by making more and more heroic acts of virtue.”
Examples I could think of would be constantly praying: “Jesus give me the heart for sacrifice of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”

“Heroism/’ Fr. Gregory continued in his most authoritative voice, “for people like you can be a form of theatrics!”

I settled back on the comfortable couch, notebook in hand, knowing that he would have some unexpected explanation of why what seemed so important to me, prayers to be heroically virtuous, could possibly be the wrong direction to take. I was not disappointed that his thoughts would surprise me.

“Instead of heroic acts of virtue what you need to do is to give up and beg God to give you what you need. That would be more poor in spirit. You are a lot like me. Our cross is that we cannot bear the cross. We should give this cross to Jesus – the cross that we are too weak to bear the cross. Each moment when you feel how weak you are, give that cross to Jesus as a love-gift. Jesus wants to bear our crosses with us. Jesus can bear those unbearable crosses with much more sensitivity and love than we can. He will offer these crosses to the Father for us.”
Always very Scriptural in his teaching, Fr. Gregory, dressed in his long black monastic robes, brought in the big gun to prove his point: “We must follow St. Paul in 2 Cor. 10:5, casting down images and bringing into captivity every thought in obedience to Christ. We are not to directly fight with thoughts of despair, hatred, self-hatred. Instead we need to bring them “into captivity in obedience of Christ.” We need to give those wretched thoughts to Jesus as a love-gift. He will know how to turn them from lead to gold. So, when those thoughts come, don’t think about them. Don’t analyze them. No, just give them to Jesus. Analysis of thoughts is an attempt to control them ourselves vs. giving them to Jesus. When Satan sees that we are giving our hateful emotions and thoughts to Jesus he will leave us alone.”

“The real cross for the ego,” Fr. Gregory resumed, “is that 1 cannot bear the cross! Realizing that you are too weak to bear the cross, diminishes the ego which wants to pride itself on being good enough to bear crosses!”
Gregory used the analogy of an orchestra. In an orchestra, we, you and I Ronda, are not powerful kettle drums but shrill stringy violins. We have been violently abused (psychologically) and also have abused ourselves by carrying burdens we don’t have to bear.

“We should pray for consolation like a little baby would. A lonely little baby cries out – and so we should pray to Jesus. It is okay to say to him, 'I will die if you don’t help me.’ This is not a nervous breakdown but an emotional surrender. When we do this we become kind and gentle.”

That certainly rang true. I notice that when things are going very well I tend to become a little smug and full of unwanted advice for others. Under great pain of heart, myself, I reach out to others more tenderly, more compassionately.