Founder's Week Prayer Service No. 4


From the letter of Theodore James Ryken to Laurentius (later Vincent) Terhoeven (January 1845):

Although I praise your zeal, I must counsel you to moderate it and to await with resignation the time foreseen by the divine will in the fulfilling of all your desires. The longing after the religious life is a good inclination if its effects are good. However, it must not result in melancholy or sadness, since such leads to impatience and murmurs against the dispositions of God.

The Sovereign Master predisposes different periods for the whole course of human life and in each of them one must be loyal and live according to the measure of grace. God does not place at once all men in that state of life where He wishes them to be at the end of their lives. But, according to me, He sometimes desires that part of the time serve as a preparation for a higher way of life. Wherever we are, He requires fidelity to the duties we have to fulfill, in proportion to the measure of light and strength and the means He places at our disposition.

When the young man of the Gospel asked our Lord what he should do to arrive at the kingdom of heaven, our Lord did not tell him immediately: “Keep the evangelical counsels; become a religious” – but He said: “Keep my commandments.” And when the young man replied: “I have kept them from my youth,” then the Savior called him to the evangelical counsels and, consequently, to a more lofty state – which words are nearly literally the words of the Gospel.

May this, in passing, serve you as a profitable lesson and warning in order not to get shipwrecked on the same reefs but, on the contrary, to be faithful to all God’s graces in your present state so that you may be ready for making all necessary sacrifices in a more demanding state of life if God, in His infinite goodness, leads you to it….

If you follow the spirit of God, you will find in the religious life a true paradise and we shall share our days, not without joy in the Lord.



“I turned toward God”…. Each day, the “sovereign Master” is asking something from each of us. And it is not necessarily, as Ryken wisely saw it, to realize at that very moment “where He wishes [us] to be at the end of [our] lives.” Situated in the unspectacular flow of everyday life which we commonly tread, we follow our ordinary vocation, that is, to follow the moment-by-moment directives of God, while allowing His Will to overtake and strengthen us.

“Your Will be done.” We misunderstand the “will of God” if we think of it as the absolute command of the Father on us or as our predetermined purpose in life. The “will of God” does not stand “over” me, or “in front of” me, saying, “You must do this or that. You must become this sort of person.” The “will of God” is not God’s marching orders to me. To proclaim “Your Will be done” is to declare that it is not our individual will but God’s Will – that is, God’s living power and inner force – that should admonish, impel, act, overcome, and form us. (cf. Romano Guardini, The Living God, p. 45-48)

More often than not, we trust too much on the strength of our own will “to keep God’s commandments” like the young man who wanted to follow Jesus. Excessive self-importance can fool us into believing that we can do anything if we simply will it to happen. For those who rely on their own strength alone, God is secondary, unimportant, disposable, and eventually “God is dead” to them.

“I turned toward God”…. By this action, an ordinary person manifests his or her belief that it is by the strength of God’s will that one gains “fidelity to the duties [one has] to fulfill” each day. “I turn toward God” – and not toward myself or others – and receive from Him the grace to respond to His moment-by-moment directives.

When I yield myself to God and patiently wait for Him to direct me, I allow “God’s graces” to come “in [my] present state” and enable me to say “yes” to His summonses. Truly, it is not always by my will alone that I can give this assent to God. Many times, I stand in need of God’s Will to overcome my inhibitions and weaknesses.

When I find the strength to say “yes,” I would become further acquainted with His ways on me and the world around me. But there would be times when I might find it difficult to follow God’s lead. In such moments, I hopefully would be able to say like the Founder: “O Lord, I cannot understand Your ways, but I must adore them.”


Further Reflection

When you turn toward God, how does it make you feel? Do you feel loved? Do you sense God’s mercy? Or is you image of God one of judgement? One of admonishment? Do you feel that you are not living within the predetermined blueprint that God has willed for your life?

The “blueprint-God” is a false image that strips God of God’s living power in our lives. This false image prevents us from participation in God’s ongoing revelation and denies us our freedom and response-ability to God, our neighbor, and ourselves.

Read the following excerpt from the poem “East Coker,” written by T.S. Elliot, from The Four Quartets (III.23-28):

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Take a few long, deep breaths. Notice the silence. The stillness.

How does this poem make you feel about your own image of God? Are you letting God be God? Are you letting God talk? Are you listening? Waiting?

Consider the patience of Moses: “As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). How long did Moses have to look at this “image of God” before he realized that it was not being consumed?

Return to your breathing. The silence. Share below, in the comments section, some of your false images of God that keep you from seeing Him as He truly is–enigmatic.



Loving Father who reigns over all,
as we commemorate these days the memory of your servant Theodore James Ryken,
grant us, his followers,
a renewed understanding
of your deeper calls
to our religious family.

Give us the courage and vision
which you have graced our Founder,
to overcome our present fears and limitations.

May our daily labors
contribute to the realization of your Kingdom
today and for always.

Grant this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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