A STRUGGLE OF BODY AND SOUL – A SPIRITUAL LIFE – IN SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

A STRUGGLE OF BODY AND SOUL From the first pages of Ivan’s diary we can follow in his soul a double reality which is under constant strain: on one side, there is his aspiration after moral perfection, after ideals as Christianity presents them. On the other side, he feels weak in relizing these ideals. He feels divided in himself as did St. Paul when he speaks about two laws inside his being, a law of the spirit and a law of the body which fight one against the other (compare Romans, 7: 21-23). This period of struggle lasted throughout Ivan’s maturing, during the war and student years. The majority of the texts quoted here are from those maturing years.

The Christian faith is a moral law for us which opens an immeasurable road, which is fair, so that we won’t deviate from the good.

It isn’t enough to believe only. Our faith must be a system, it must show us a way of life, so that we don’t act against the principle of justice and eternity.

“Aut catholicus aut nihil – a Catholic or nothing”. With regard to this I have never had the slightest doubt.

It’s easy to theorize about Christianity and be enthusiastic about the Lord God when he doesn’t ask anything of us, but to be a practical Catholic must be my purpose.

Man is tremendously weak and he can’t achieve anything without help.

There is quite a different law in our body from the one in our soul.

These past days I fairly sank. I was rather lazy, I ate disorderly, I prayed little, I didn’t suffer at all, I was angry, a little bit stingy, and therefore I lost the connection with the One.

Temptations are terribly strong but a prayer raises me. In the holy of holies – in my heart, there is an unshakeable faith.

A motto of man should be a calm work and self-upbringing.

Each moment man should be aware of his dependence on the harmony of the universe.

A bloody fight is necessary if one doesn’t want to sink in an ordinary world.

I’d like to be humble! Immensely humble! I’d like to destroy all of my inborn haughtiness and humbly long for the truth, only because of this truth itself.

I should pray to God longer in order not to lose that mystical relation with Him, to feel him in each thought, in each look and in each job.

I should read the Gospel at least half-an-hour daily, think about it, and then at noon after the Hail Mary I should think about some transcendental things and so stay in this mystical light the whole day, the whole life, creating a master-piece of my soul and seek after the Truth-Purpose.

My inner life too is an eternal struggle…There’s no peace, some relentless power drags me up.

Why is there in me such a great aspiration after perfecting myself, after coming closer to that One – the greatest, why is it that some supernatural power always speaks: fast, don’t eat too much, be a superman?

I looked at about twenty dead people who were killed during the last battles… You see, this is life… Asceticism, observing life and working only in this direction, without any concession to “this” world, this is the only real life procedure.

Humbleness, self-denial, silence and good deeds – only they are real now and after our death.

I’ll aspire after sanctity, after union with the Lord God and I’ll pray to him to give me a resisting strength in life’s struggles and creativity.

We are in this world only provisionally, we are gone in a moment, and this life is sensible only if it is a preparation for another one.

Whoever says that fasting is nonsense, doesn’t know anything. Without fasting there is no real spiritual life, then you don’t have authority over yourself.

Grant me, God, a strong will, even if I may be naked and barefoot! The most important is the great ”I”, freedom of the spirit, which is not afraid even of death, and all other things are irrelevant.

A sacred poverty! Not to care for sensual enjoyment! To give everything and to love your neighbor ardently, what a joy there is in all this!

A SPIRITUAL LIFE

It is not possible to realize an ideal of Christian sanctity without an intensive spiritual life which includes prayer of all forms, receiving the sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion, reading the Holy Writ and spiritual books. Ivan was completely aware that it was the only way of ascending to the mount of Christian perfection. He seriously used all means that the Church and teachers of Christian spirituality put at his disposal to achieve this aim and to make a masterpiece of his soul.

I love silence and peace very much, then I can meditate, think of the mystery of the Eucharist, I can pray for a long time…

It’s more beautiful to creep into a dark small church and, close to the twinkling of eternal light, along with the last sun beams, to pray the rosary silently and to worship the Eucharist eternally, to worship this splendor, this greatness, this immense Love.

I am at a loss for words to express how a religious environment has a positive effect on a person.

A church has an indescribably deep effect, where so many times, along with the mystical glow of numerous candles, this mystery of all mysteries – the Holy Mass takes places.

Humility, prayer, spiritual reading and exercise to strengthen one’s will for the good, are four suppositions without which all inner life is excluded.

The purpose of all people is to become saints. Their purpose is to resemble the embodied Word – our Savior Jesus Christ.

Contemplation – a life of a soul in the ceaseless union with Jesus, is the best life.

Regular, consequent meditation is the only means for us on earth never to lose balance and to rejoice or suffer with Christ from day to day.

There is a flame in me for the endless heights, an ardor for the untroubled embrace of the Son and the Father and the Spirit.

Humility, prayer, spiritual reading, an exercise to strengthen one’s will for the good, Confession, Communion – all of these are only means to help us reach at last a single goal: to introduce God into our souls. Only then the unfathomable emptiness in our soul will be filled, which can be filled only by the immense God.

A man who wants to live a full h u m a n life, has to live a life of Grace, a life of union with God. It is the only real human life.

To have Grace on earth and a glory in Heaven is the aim of all human endeavors.

Each of us carries in himself/herself foundations of one cathedral which he/she has to build: this is a temple of the Holy Spirit in our souls.

Who is a better teacher of spiritual life than the Holy Church, which besides its two-thousand-year-long experience acts under the influence of the Holy Spirit Himself!

All human activities have to enable a human soul to lead as deep a religious life as possible – contemplation.

The Gospel is really a charming book, for no matter how many times you may read it, it always seems you are reading a new book.

The two sacraments – Holy Communion and Holy Confession – are the sources of a permanent and successful reform of the inner life of each Catholic.

God wants to lead people by means of people. A confessor gets the special graces of God to show us the Will of God.

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What was a state of Ivan’s soul after finishing his studies and at the beginning of his public activities in 1923, we can see from his answers to the questions in one poll from which we quote only some of them.

What do I pray in the morning and in the evening?

– In the morning: meditation for three quarters of an hour. In the evening: the rosary, examination of conscience, I prepare the text for meditation for the following day.

What’s the use of Holy Confession?

– To conquer my faults more easily.

How many times a year do I receive Holy Communion?

– Daily.

What is a spiritual life?

– Meditation about divine things; participation in God’s inner life; to become, in a way, God.

Do I need a spiritual life and why?

– Yes. Because, without it I would stop to exist. Without it there’s a hell.

Do you have religious doubts?

– No.

What is in my opinion, or from my experience, the safest means to preserve chastity of life?

– Enthusiasm for the Holy Church which is based on the knowledge of faith. Daily Holy Communion, systematic daily mastering of the body (in food, sudden getting up from the bed, regular physical training at least 10 minutes a day), and not to look for female company.

IN SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

A special means of spiritual growth and of coming closer to the ideal of Christian perfection were spiritual exercises which Ivan used to have every year and from which the precious notes have been left. From them we can see how Ivan was elevating with long strides toward Christian holiness. We present here only the most significant thoughts from these notes.

Since sin is the greatest evil, in fact the only evil, it deprives us of the only good – God. It means that we should hate sin most and fight against it with all our might.

Sin is the cause of the greatest catastrophes of humankind.

The essence of each apostolate must be a fight against sin. This is the main issue, and other kinds of apostolate come into it.

The one who fights inside the Church, has only one enemy – sin; all other things are indifferent and we should use them to fight against sin and promote the salvation of souls.

All that has been done to me, all that has happened to me I should consider to have come from God Himself, and nothing should disturb our spiritual peace.

How sweet it is, Jesus, to be in Your army, to serve under Your flag.

All that is dear to me I forget when I remember Your heavenly vision and Your dear Mother. Jesus, I devote myself to You.

I would like best to serve You there where You are constantly being thought of, and where only You and nobody else is being served.

Not to have any other Fiancé except You, my Savior. Don’t let me ever betray You and give me strength to become more and more similar to You in a voluntary suffering.

I felt all God’s love, which manifests itself in His innumerable benefactions, in benefactions of the body and spirit; in all of them He Himself is present.

The greatest benefaction is when the immense God gives Himself to us.

God shows his never-ending love most in giving us all His immensity and His infinity in the small Host which feeds us.

Oh, the lavishness of God’s love, which endow with an incomprehensible gift an insignificant, miserable human being! I give myself to You, God, as a gift in return.

Life without a cross, a comfortable one, should be shameful to me.

To perform my duties conscientiously and consider it as the cross of my life, as my daily crucifixion, brings blessings in the work for redeeming souls in the Catholic Action.

In order not to collapse in the face of difficulties and physical toil, I won’t form a judgement myself, but willl ask my spiritual guide for advice.

On my death-bed I’d like to have been an ambassador of the Great King, it means, always in the presence of God, aware that praise, honor and divine service are the only things that matter, and all the rest is vanity.