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Monday, 8 June 2015

Boomeranging Back to The Self

Four of the most common pitfalls of those who follow Christ into the Dark Nights of the Senses and Spirit, and even moving into the Illuminative State, may be defined as "boomeranging back to the self."

The Maritains describe some of these tendencies to fall back into pride and egotism which they call "the reflex action of the mind, the tendency to come back on ourselves." A grave sin of those who in this day and age, note the Maritains, have a propensity to want to describe or examine self in terms of analysis and psychological curiosity.

In 2015, I can plainly state, that the most common sin I have witnessed among Catholics has been the psychologizing of sin. Now people can explain away, apparently, responsibility and consequences of sin because of psychological interpretations of so-called hurt, emotional upset, or even abuse, as if God's grace could not and would not cut through the most terrible of sins a person can endure from others.

Looking too much at sin may be part of the fault of this psychological thinking, as well as the need to talk too much and not rest in quiet. The Maritains make it quite clear that there are many reasons why a person falls back into the self, and noise or senseless talking take one away from quiet.

Years ago now, (time flies), if you remember my time in Tyburn, I recall being aware that I had sinned much less in the convent and fallen back into habitual venial sins when coming out. The one big reason why this was true, in fact, THE reason, was the lack of keeping silent all day except for prayer, classes, and the forty-five minutes of communal talk time, in which one was not allowed to talk about one's self.

Simply, talk brings about a myriad of sins. Bragging, lying, exaggerating, gossiping, and so on, all sins of the tongue, cannot happen if one keeps long silences. Time wasted on speaking of trivia, also a sin, cannot happen if one keeps silence as much as possible. Talk takes us back into the realm of the ego.  Silence demands that we leave egotism for contemplation of God.

The second reason we boomerang back into the self is one which I have described on this blog many times-acting out of ego, even in so-called "ministries" instead of acting out of humility and the other virtues. There is no merit, none, in actions formed out of the ego. Only when one has been stripped of the ego can one truly serve God and the Church. Dying to self means that one is not aware of one's good works.

The Maritains make it quite clear that one should not read mystical books in order to find out what level of spirituality one has come to know or live in daily. This is boomeranging back into the self. In our overly self-conscious society, when we are fixated on our health, finances, and general well-being, curiosity, which is always a sin, about our own spiritual life sets us back to the self. We must become detached from ourselves and from our own prayer. The Maritains quote St Anthony Abbot in a startling sentence: "The prayer is not perfect if the monk knows he is praying."

The third turning back to self is something I am learning quickly, having read such things in the stories of the Desert Fathers, but now experiencing again, and perhaps finally "getting it", that one does not have to nor should one defend one's self when one is falsely accused of some sin.

This happened today, again. Sadly, I fell into defensive mode, and realized, again, that I had not passed the test. Several stories, including the one about a later saint, St. Gerard Majella, reveal the non-necessity of defending one's innocence, just as Christ did not do so in front of the Sanhedrin.

Defense brings us back to the self. To absorb or even transcend false accusations brings a peace and a quietude to the soul, and also, frees up the Holy Spirit to step in and defend one.

One story surrounds the life of St. Macarius, one of my favorite Desert Fathers. Even as a young man, he was known for his wisdom and discernment.

He was married but his wife died young and he finally went into the desert again. Because of his great gifts of discernment and wisdom, his superior gave him the job of counseling religious women. However, a pregnant woman accused Macarius publicly of violating her, and he did not defend himself.  When the time for the birth of the baby came, the woman was in such long labor and pain, she admitted that she had lied to bring down the righteous man. The superior asked Macarius why he had not defended himself, as the saint had said nothing to stand up for himself when accused. Macarius knew that defense would being him back into himself.

This stance may seem strange to Americans and the English who love to hire lawyers for detraction. However, God loves those who chose the humble way of relying on Him instead of looking at themselves.

The fourth way in which one boomerangs back is concentrating too much on one's "vocation" or "gifts". I have mentioned the horrible gifting programs which are not based on Catholic theology, and to over concentrate on a lost vocation or any vocation, constantly going back over one's life regarding vocation is a sign of boomeranging back into the self.

When one is tempted to turn back to the self, one can merely look at Christ, either on the Cross, or in glory. I personally like the Face Painted Without Hands to bring my thoughts back to the Bridegroom.

For years I have been convinced that the great heretics were in the Illuminative State when they boomeranged back into the self. Why? Why would Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Arius and many others fall into heresy from a height of infused knowledge?

They boomeranged back into pride on the discovery of the new graces God had given them. To me, the great sin of heretics is that they twisted knowledge from God into their own image and likeness, choosing power over humility, choosing self over God.

There but for the grace of God go I or any others.