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Holy Labor
Author: Nathaniel Slattery
Posted: Month of the Blessed Sacrament, 24th Day, Year of Our Lord 2023
Midway building a shed in the woods

As promised, I am now attempting to write an article about the holy work of embroidery, for the sake of my wife, and without her active help.

What I was trying to say with my previous articles about slaughter and St Isidore, is that God is moving us into a holy season of labor. This is easy to see by the feast days that are commencing, such as Isidore and St Joseph the Workman, and all the monks coming up. It is a genuine surprise to me, since I anticipated the holy wrath of God coming and removing most people from the enjoyment of this season, but it seems our prayers and penances have bought us a little more time, and with that, some of our worldly labors persist.

I am going to speak to you with the assumption that you are pursuing the devout life. I am also going to bring you along a certain trajectory which, despite being very unique, I think is actually very common today. Let us say that you have converted here in the last few years, or at least have reverted and discovered the fervor of the True Religion, emerging from your tepid modernist Catholicism. Likely, some of the events that have occured, whether as early as the election of Mr. Donald Trump and the incredible false wave of hope that appeased half the world’s moral compunctions, or as late as during the canola epidemic, when the entire world was cajoled under pain of death or exile to adopt one particular piece of fashion that prior was only common in large cities in China, have affected your conversion. Probably, it started with either some sort of moral disgust, for instance, the sexual corruption of children, or else a grace from God that allowed you to see His Face a moment. If it was the former, let us pray the latter quickly followed, or you may have fallen into a pit of examining the evils of the world until you imitated and preserved them, likely in a spirit of mockery. But if you received that grace from God, then your conversion may have progressed into certain stages.

One of these stages probably was the realization of how corrupt this world is. That may have given you strong motives to pursue God, as a man turns quickly away from a foul smell. For me, it was the corruption of children. I do not understand how a person who has even a vague ambition of procreating can fail to contemn the world and flee from it entirely, and accept all the ridicule and ostracization it sends, when you meditate for a moment on what they want to do to your children and how they see them. This, then, is the simple basis which, from my small study, seems to be the beginning of every saint’s devotion: namely, the resolution to be no part of this world.

One of the next stages may have been the pursuit of some vehicle of escape. Homesteading, for instance, or meditating a vocation if you were qualified, or leaving from a city to a rural place. All of these bring disappointments, although I do not intend to equate a genuine religious vocation with the other two. But I do know that disappointment is an element of the pursuit of a contemplative vocation from the monks I’ve talked to and the nuns I’ve read, but that is all I will say about that. For the other two, you may have discovered homesteading to be the vain preening and empty flattery that it is, revolving mostly around clever displays of imperfect work on the internet with a veneer gloss, in order to convince others to give you their money for you to explain how you did something that you had no experience with and probably failed at. For leaving from a city to a rural place, you might have discovered the vanity of rural people, how they have no idea of the treasure they have (as we saw in yesterday’s article), how they have no barriers to prevent the encroachment of the moral degradation of the city, how they “live and let live” and anticipate no judgment from God for that. Or maybe you just discovered they were all grape-juice religious, and that was clearly enough shallow. Or, God forbid, you stayed in one of these holes, explaining away the imperfections, and dedicating yourself to the pursuit of worldly goods. Fruits, nuts, roots, and meat might be more real and actual than digits on the screen, but they are still dust and ashes and quickly consumed. Not what God intends your life to be based around.

Following this and perhaps various other stages, you might have found yourself in the first throes of religious fervor. Let us hope! This then might have left you with several devotions, with a love of the Rosary, with First Saturday, with St. Philomena and other heavenly friends. Good! How long does it take to have those devotions? Some people have them for a handful of months. Probably most. Are they the end of the devout life? No, they are the beginning.

This then is the hopeful place we find ourselves once the boat has been pushed thoroughly away from the dock and the world has fallen away from us, and holds little appeal, except perhaps in times of storm. What does the rest of the journey consist of? This is when it is time to study the simple lessons of the life of Christ, whether that be done through Him or His saints, and you can very quickly see, that He came and recommended the religious life to everyone. That is, the life of a monk or nun. Take a study of all the saints, and you will see this. Look at the angels. It does not matter if a saint is married or not. Christ came into the Holy Family, which was a Family of perfect chastity and continence, with both of Its members practicing the devout life, which is to say, continual prayer, endless meditative striving, strict penance, mortification, order, labor, fruitfulness, and little worldly pleasure. The striving against worldly pleasure at all times.

This then is the holy life, and where embroidery comes in. Here is a random example from my latest reading to give you yet another summary of it, of what your life should look like as soon as you can possibly arrange it, and I will not say more, since you can study it anywhere in any traditional hagiography or any other Catholic instructional work: “St Peter, Archbishop of Tarentaise, now called Montiers in Savoy: He was a native of Dauphine. A strong inclination to learning, assisted by a good genius and a happy memory, carried him very successfully through his studies. At twenty years of age he took the Cistercian habit at Bonnevaux, a monastery that had been lately filled by a colony sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux. They employed a great part of the day in hewing wood and tilling the ground in the forest, in perpetual silence and interior prayer. They ate but once a day and their fare was herbs or roots, mostly turnips of a coarse sort. Four hours in twenty-four was the usual allowance for sleep; so that, rising at midnight, they continued in the church till it was morning and returned no more to rest; which was the primitive custome of that Order. Peter practised the greatest austerities with fervour and alacrity; he was most exactly obedient, obliging to all, humble and modest. His pious parents, after the birth of four children, lived in perpetual continency and the practice of rigorous abstinence, prayed much, and gave large alms: their house they seemed to turn into a hospital, so great was the number of poor and strangers they constantly entertained, whom they furnished with good beds whilst they themselves often lay on straw. The father and his two other sons at length followed Peter to Bonnevaux, and the mother and daughter embraced the same Order in a neighbouring nunnery.”

The point is that we need to die to the world, and this is a very real thing, since it should hold no pleasures nor sorrows nor enticements to us except insofar as it points to Heaven, and God Himself assists us with that by every event in our lives. Has your mother died outside the Church? Now you labor for her conversion, and learn how to do it continually, because you will never know when you have meritted it. Has your wife died? Now she is in Purgatory, and you continually labor to get her out of there. Has your priest died? Now he beckons from Heaven, where your heart should be, which is the lesson of the approaching Ascension. We die to the world by removing all its pleasures, from food to procreation to rest, until our minds are firmly encased in the glory of God. This is not done easily, but it is done simply.

Once you have done all this, longing for God to take you to Him every day, then you might find yourself still persisting in the miserable dust of this world. You may be fearful for your salvation, and every dangerous moment that threatens to steal it from you. As St Antony saw the world full of snares, and said how could anyone be saved? and the response was by humility. This is when you start ordering your life in perfect simplicity. You fill your time with useful labors, eliminate all dangerous amusements and as much idleness as possible, and pray continually. Because you have no hope in the world. However, you are not like these hoity-toity homesteading people, and you do not labor for the sake of a good harvest or some false self-sufficiency, but for penance. This is where you might slaughter a sheep, hew a log, or embroider the Sacred Heart.

Now, my wife wanted me to tell you that we ought to commune better, to purchase from those who are doing the same thing. Well, it is simpler than that. We ought not to purchase anything that is not charitable or necessary. Since we buy food, how is it charitable to buy it from a grocery store? Since we live in a house, how is it necessary that we purchase posts from the building supply company? Because we want a porch for pleasure-watching the birds? There are perfectly good trees in the backyard to hew down to a post.

That is all I have for now. As you can see, I spoke a lot more about things my wife did not ask me to speak about. I will attempt again to persuade her to write the article, and perhaps you will see another part to this one.

May the Lord reward you,
Ressurexit sicut dixit alleleuia,
St Joseph ora pro nobis,

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