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Friday 15 February 2013

Lenten Recipes inspired by Father Z

Cricket fried rice from the Guardian

Serves four to six.
2 large eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
Powdered ginger, to taste
Powdered coriander, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
4 tbsp oil for stir-frying, or as needed
1kg cold cooked brown rice
180g roasted crickets (about 3–4 dozen)
150g chopped spring onions
1½ tbsp light soy sauce or oyster sauce, as desired
125g cooked corn kernels
Lightly beat the eggs with the salt, ginger, coriander, garlic powder and pepper.
Heat a wok or frying pan and add two tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, add the egg mixture and cook, stirring, until lightly scrambled but not too dry. Remove the eggs and wipe clean the wok or frying pan.
Add two tablespoons of oil. Add the rice and stir-fry for a few minutes, using a wooden spoon to break it apart. Add the crickets and onions, and stir in soy or oyster sauce as desired. Continue stir-frying for a few more minutes. When the rice is heated through, return the egg to the pan, mix and stir in corn kernels. Serve hot.

Mealworm French Fries from Insects are Food
  • 4 U.S. grade No. 1 fresh potatoes (Idaho potatoes)
  • 2 dozen mealworms – boiled but not roasted
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • ½ teaspoon smoked salt
Cut and slice potatoes into preferred style, i.e. shoestring, etc. Keep the skin on to enhance the homemade appearance and flavor. If you prefer to peel your potatoes, please keep in mind that fries made from peeled potatoes should be chilled after cutting in cold water for 10 minutes to 30 minutes before frying, to ensure maximum crispiness and to prevent them from sticking together while frying.
Deep fry potatoes, mealworms and scallions together for 3 minutes in proper temperature oil. The oil is the proper temperature when the fries don’t sink when dropped in and bubbles remain on top of the oil. Always use clean oil to fry potatoes.
Tips: A little known chef’s secret to prevent the potatoes from darkening is to add citrus acid or vinegar to the water solution. Also in order to avoid water spattering and to reduce fat absorption spin dry potatoes as much as possible before frying. In order to get really crispy and tasty fries, fry them twice.

Cicada-licious from Insects are Food
Courtesy of Created by Jenna Jadin and the University of Maryland Cicadamaniacs © 2004 University of Maryland 2nd edition
Cicadas are a delicacy in the city of Shanghai, China, where this creative recipe originated.
  • Cicadas
  • anises
  • salt
  • rice wine
  • mashed garlic
  • celery

Boil the cicadas and anises in salted rice wine for five minutes, then remove the cicadas. 

Sauté the mashed garlic, adding water and rice wine to make a paste.

Deep-fry the cicadas, then skewer them with bamboo picks.
Arrange them on a plate with the turnip greens, celery, and garlic paste to look like the cicadas are climbing out of a mud pie onto green foliage

Well, with so many insects, we would not starve if we learned how to eat them...........

Answer to another query today on "mental prayer"

There seems to be a confusion as to the meaning of "mental prayer", about which I have been writing for a year in the perfection series.

A young man who writes to me reveals the confusion. I hope this post helps.

Firstly, mental prayer is not vocal prayer. Ergo, when we pray out loud, as in the Liturgy or if we say the Divine Office with a group or our husband or wife, that is not mental prayer. If we say the Mercy Chaplet with others, this is also vocal prayer.

Mental prayer is divided into the two types of prayer about which I have been writing since last January.

Mental prayer is either meditation or contemplation. I have defined these in the long perfection series, but let me delineate the distinctions again.

Meditation in the Catholic Church involves the use of Scripture, as in the daily Lectio Divina of the monasteries, wherein an hour is set aside for reading and meditating on the Scriptures. Many saints have taught us how to do meditation and all of them start with Scripture. I know many lay people who do their daily hour of Scripture. I tend to use the readings of the day from Mass for mine, unless the Holy Spirit nudges me to look elsewhere.

When I have insights from personal meditation on a passage, I sometimes share them with you all, such as the insights on Martha and Mary the other day. Have other people written about the same thing? Of course, but when God shows one something in prayer, it is, as it were, written on your heart and "personalized".

If one has ever been on a retreat with the Jesuits, as I did for years in my youth, one learn Ignatian meditation, which involves both the active and passive imagination. I was fortunate to have great teachers in my early twenties.

Note, that meditation begins with a passage of Scriptures. The active imagination involves putting one's self in the "picture" of an event in the life of Christ, such as the Wedding Feast at Cana, or the Meeting of the Woman at the Well. One meditates on the event, on Christ, on the persons involved in the pericope.

One should NOT do meditation without a spiritual director and without Catholic grounding-such meditating as yoga etc. is not good and you may read all about this in the Vatican document,

One can also do private and quiet meditation on the rosary, thinking of the Mysteries while praying.

Meditation occurs in the Purgative and earliest Illuminative Stages, until God moves one into contemplation.

Contemplation is the second type of mental prayer. I do not use the phrase "mental prayer" in my perfection series, as it is misleading.

Contemplation is the gift which occurs in the Illuminative State, when the person is absorbed in contemplating the attributes of God Himself, either as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, or as the Trinity as a whole.

This level of mental prayer takes time and the basis of the stages of reflection which I have been outlining in the perfection and doctors of the Church series.

The highest forms of contemplation become moments of unity with God, in the Unitive State, to which we are all called. We see this state described with clarity in most of the saints I have highlighted in the perfection series.

Again, to obtain the graces for such prayer, one must be living in the sacramental life of the Church, usually.

Do some people experience higher forms of prayer outside the Church? Yes, of course, but this is a special grace from God and not common. In my experience, such people usually convert to Catholicism, if they are experiencing such prayer, as God shows them Himself, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

By the way, I found an old version of The Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola on line. The old translations are much better.  Here is the link, but do not do these without a spiritual director who knows what he is doing.

You might be able to find or buy this book somewhere.
Feast of St. Ignatius, 1909.

An answer to a question this morning

One of my readers has asked me about charismatic gifts, charismatic deliverance, and healing Masses this morning.

I have written about this at least once before.

I cannot stress these points which follow enough.

One: only exorcist-priests duly appointed by a bishop can be involved in exorcisms. If that priest desires a lay team to accompany him for discernment or prayer, he may ask the bishop. Those people are trained in the diocese for that purpose.

Two: there is no difference between deliverance and exorcism. There has been a fudging in some books and prayer groups on this point. Most of the bad theology comes from Protestant ministries, and  are outside of Catholic teaching or authority.

Three: no lay person can claim they have a gift of deliverance as this is an office of the Church under Church hierarchy. Gifts accompany office.

Four: charismatic gifts are given to all of us in baptism and confirmation; these are not the special property of the charismatic movement or prayer meetings. The Baptism of the Spirit, a Protestant term, is, for a Catholic, merely the openness of the gifts given in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Baptism of the Spirit is not a sacrament. Your day of redemption is your baptismal day.

If one is in serious sin at confirmation, one does not receive the graces. A removal of sin may allow those graces to come to the fore. This is a contentious subject, which even the greats, such as Thomas Aquinas, argue. But, one must not be in mortal sin to receive the sanctifying graces of confirmation. Whether those graces stay there "dormant" or not is a serious theological question. In RCIA, a bishop can decide to "conditionally" confirm people who have repented from lives of sin and were in sin when confirmed (such as living in fornication or in same sex active relationships) after confession. Some of these converts experience a great outpouring of the gifts at their confirmation . Some bishops do not repeat confirmation, even conditionally, accepting the fact that these graces would be "released". This is open to discussion, but the Baptism of the Spirit is not the sacrament of Confirmation.

Anyone who claims there is a sacramental quality to this Baptism of the Spirit is wrong. The sacraments, as clearly defined in the CCC, give us the gifts and the fruits come from those gifts.

Five: tongues are not necessary for salvation; sometimes so-called tongues are not from God.

Six: I refuse to see being slain in the Spirit a sacramental or even a totally spiritual experience. Such an experience can be connected to the emotions or psychology of an individual person. This is NOT to be confused with the higher gift of ecstasy as experienced by St. Teresa of Avila, for example, or St. Paul.

Seven: all charismatic meetings must be under the authority of the diocese and have a chaplain assigned to them. If there is no authority from the Church present or connected to the meeting, do not go, do not. Many dioceses have an "Office of Charismatic Renewal".

PS I lived in a disciplined, orderly charismatic community for seven years as a very young person. We had 2,000 people in the community. I have a lot of experience in these matters.

Defending the Pope

Without getting into detail as to sources, I want to answer those many critics of the Pope who claim he is "getting down from his cross" in resigning.

This is a total misunderstanding of the Pope as a man and as a very holy man.

When he placed his pallium on the tomb of Pope Celestine, I paid attention, and he again, visited the shrine in Aquila, Italy in 2010. Twice, this highly intelligent and sensitive Pope visited Celestine.

When the Pope placed his pallium on the tomb, I noticed that as a deliberate act. I took that as a sign of an eventual resignation. Why not? Some commentators mentioned it at the time.

This is not a Pope who acts impulsively or in the moment of emotion. This is a scholarly and reflective man who does these types of actions very deliberately.

I am a person who does things only after much thought and with deliberation.

I get misunderstood by many who NEVER think before they act.

Those of us who are reflective and move only in stages are not understood by an impulsive world.

Pope Benedict XVI is not impulsive. His character is one of deep concentration and brilliance. Perhaps, because he followed an extroverted and very spontaneous pope, Benedict has been misunderstood.

Stop accusing him of avoiding suffering.

Such a holy man has suffered and will suffer daily wherever he goes.

That is not the point.

The point is that the Holy Spirit is running the Church, not Benedict. And Benedict is responding to the Holy Spirit.

Many things are happening in the world BUT all of these are part of the large plan of God for all His creatures and His creation.

I admire and honour this Pope who responds to God first, as he has always done, and not to either the media or immature or unorthodox Catholics.

If people think that going into a monastery and entering into deep prayer is getting off the Cross, they do not understand intense prayer for the Church. Evil meets one in monasteries as well.

I, for one, trust in the Holy Spirit, who is leading the Church. This resignation is in the Will of God. All things which happen need to be seen in the light of Faith, Hope and Charity. Either one trusts in God, or one does not.

It is better to be small and unknown-a challenge

People in the world and in the world of the media are having a hard time understanding the Pope's desire to go into the monastery at the end of the month. I understand. In many ways, I prefer that lifestyle

The person who enters into the solitude of his or her heart is making a decision to be one of the unknowns. How many unknown saints have there been? We do not know.

Many saints worked out their salvation without the notice of the Universal Church. It is only in this day of media coverage that we are surprised when a saint we have never heard of is canonized.

St. Benedict Labre
It is better to be small and unknown. Why? Freedom.

I have an extremely wealthy friend who I only see rarely. We do not move in the same circles. However, for all her wealth and contacts, she is unknown. She does not belong to a country club or the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is not involved in loud politics.

She prays and reads and visits her family and does charity work, quietly.

Her life, she admits, is complicated by wealth. She has demands I shall never, ever have.

But, for all her wealth, she is living and has lived a life of relative simplicity compared to others in her social set.

The point of this post is that riches complicate one's life; one has duties if one is given more by God.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux and his family were in the highest echelons of their society. They owned great tracts of land, at least on castle, and had labourers, as well as house staff and so on.

St. Bernard gave up his inheritance, as did all his brothers and his sister, Humbeline, who I have highlighted on this blog. They knew how to find God. God was not in the castle for them to find, but in the walls of Citeaux and Clarivaux and other monasteries which sprang up from those foundations.

Imagine a monastery today with 700 monks!

There are absolutely beautiful monasteries for men in England. Buckfast Abbey and Downside, as well as Prinknash and Farnborough are amazing.

These phenomenal places are almost empty.

I challenge young men today to become small and unknown....and holy.

More of the Great Albert-Part 24 DoC series and perfection

I am not doing these doctors in chronological order,but here we have St. Albert the Great referring to another Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo. The heart is the seat of love. But, one must will love.

Chapter 7

How the heart should be gathered within itself

What is more, as is said in the book On the Spirit and the Soul (of St. Augustine), to ascend to God means to enter into oneself. He who entering within and penetrating his inmost nature, goes beyond himself, he is truly ascending to God. So let us withdraw our hearts from the distractions of this world, and recall them to the inner joys, so that we can establish them to some degree in the light of divine contemplation

It is important not to skip any steps in this process. I have heard of spiritual directors wanting to introduce contemplation before the two stages of purification or purgation. This is an impossible thing to do. One must learn to meditate, to read the Scriptures with the active then the passive imagination before moving on to contemplation.

And, it must be Catholic not eastern or any other type, as I have noted before on this blog.

Light comes in the Illumination Stage, which is the beginning of contemplation, but only the beginnings.

For this is the life and peace of our hearts - to be established by intent in the love of God, and to be sweetly remade by his comforting. 
But the reason why we are in so many ways hindered in the practical enjoyment of this matter and are unable to get into it is clearly because the human mind is so distracted by worries that it cannot bring its memory to turn within, is so clouded by its imaginations that it cannot return to itself with its understanding, and is so drawn away by its desires that it is quite unable to come back to itself by desire for inner sweetness and spiritual joy. 

This is key. We hinder God's work in ourselves. Beg for grace. Beg for mercy and forgiveness. Beg for healing and the unblocking of all the graces given to us in baptism and confirmation. 

Thus it is so prostrate among the sense objects presented to it that it cannot enter into itself as the image of God. It is therefore right and necessary for the mind to raise itself above itself and everything created by the abandonment of everything, with humble reverence and great trust, and to say within itself, He whom I seek, love, thirst for and desire from everything and more than anything is not a thing of the senses or the imagination, but is above everything that can be experienced by the senses and the intellect. He cannot be experienced by any of the senses, but is completely desirable to my will. He is moreover not discernable, but is perfectly desirable to my inner affections. He cannot be comprehended, but can be loved in his fullness with a pure heart, for he is above all lovable and desirable, and of infinite goodness and perfection. 

Part of my warnings on private revelations is the seeking of consolation. The senses cannot be consoled unless these are purified. And, the fruits of the spirit indicate you are purified.

Are you exhibiting interior sins, thoughts which are petty and not of God? Go back and ask for purification, as the love comes to the pure of heart, mind, and soul.

And then a darkness comes over the mind and it is raised up into itself and penetrates even deeper. And the more inward-looking the desire for it, the more powerful this means of ascent to the mysterious contemplation of the holy Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity in Jesus Christ is, and the more interior the yearning, the more productive it is

The Holy Spirit dwells within us from baptism and confirmation. It is our sins and hardness of heart which keeps us from living in that unity of the Indwelling of the Trinity. One only has to will to begin the process and persevere in grace and good will. God will do the rest. He is waiting for you.

Certainly in matters spiritual the more inward they are the greater they are as spiritual experiences. For this reason, never give up, never stop until you have tasted some pledge, as I might say, or foretaste of the future full experience, and until you have obtained the satisfaction of however small a first fruits of the divine joy. And do not give up pursuing it and following its scent until you have seen the God of gods in Sion. Do not stop or turn back in your spiritual journey and your union and adherence to God within you until you have achieved what you have been seeking. 


Take as a pattern of this the example of those climbing an ordinary mountain. If our mind is involved by its desires in the things which are going on below, it is immediately carried away by endless distractions and side tracks, and being to some extent divided against itself, is weakened and as it were scattered amongst the things which it seeks with its desires. The result is ceaseless movement, travel without an arrival, and labour without rest. 

Learn to be by yourself. and if you are by yourself, consider that a gift from God and not a burden.

If on the other hand our heart and mind can withdraw itself by its desire and love from the infinite distraction below of the things beneath it, can learn to be with itself, abandoning these lower things and gathering itself within itself into the one unchanging and satisfying good, and can hold to it inseparably with its will, it is correspondingly more and more gathered together in one and strengthened, as it is raised up by knowledge and desire. In this way it will become accustomed to the true supreme good within itself until it will be made completely immovable and arrive securely at that true life which is the Lord God himself, so that it can now rest in him within and in peace without any changeability or vicissitude of time, perfectly gathered within itself in the secret divine abode in Christ Jesus who is the way for those who come to him, the truth and life.

Part 23 DoC-More Albert the Great-the Holy Spirit will withhold Himself from one who is too distracted

Love is in the will, but the will must decide to follow Christ in all things. Too much involvement with unncessary things means that the Holy Spirit will not come into the crowded mind, heart and soul.

If there is no room.....................

Chapter 6

That the devout man should cleave to God with naked understanding and will

The more you strip yourself of the products of the imagination and involvement in external, worldly things and the objects of the senses, the more your soul will recover its strength and its inner senses so that it can appreciate the things which are above. So learn to withdraw from imaginations and the images of physical things, since what pleases God above everything is a mind bare of those sorts of forms and objects, for it is his delight to be with the sons of men, that is those who, at peace from such activities, distractions and passions, seek him with a pure and simple mind, empty themselves for him, and cleave to him. Otherwise, if your memory, imagination and thought is often involved with such things, you must needs be filled with the thought of new things or memories of old ones, or identified with other changing objects. 

As a result, the Holy Spirit withholds itself from thoughts bereft of understanding. So the true lover of Jesus Christ should be so united through good will in his understanding with the divine will and goodness, and be so bare of all imaginations and passions that he does not even notice whether he is being mocked or loved, or something is being done to him. 

This is the opposite of complaining and murmuring. Also, obedience means orthodoxy.

For a good will turns everything to good and is above everything. So if the will is good and is obedient and united to God with pure understanding, he is not hurt even if the flesh and the senses and the outer man is moved to evil, and is slow to good, or even if the inner man is slow to feel devotion, but should simply cleave to God with faith and good will in naked understanding. 

St. Benedict's Chapter Seven of his Rule also emphasizes these points of honesty with one's self and abandonment to God's mercy. Only when we see that we are not God, can God transform us.

He is doing this if he is conscious of all his own imperfection and nothingness, recognises his good to consist in his Creator alone, abandons himself with all his faculties and powers, and all creatures, and immerses himself wholly and completely in the Creator, so that he directs all his actions purely and entirely in his Lord God, and seeks nothing apart from him, in whom he recognises all good and all joy of perfection to be found. And he is so transformed in a certain sense into God that he cannot think, understand, love or remember anything but God himself and the things of God

Can you see a thread in all of these writings from all the saints so far who know perfection? The way is the same for all people. If you read all the selections since last year, you will see the pattern clearly.  Purification, illumination, unity.

Unity is the goal WHILE on earth. Otherwise, two things are hindered. The first is that we must go to purgatory or experience purgatory which is much more painful than this process; and second, the Kingdom of God is not encouraged or built properly. Anything done out of our own energies and will is useless, completely useless.............

Other creatures however and even himself he does not see, except in God, nor does he love anything except God alone, nor remember anything about them or himself except in God. This knowledge of the truth always makes the soul humble, ready to judge itself and not others, while on the contrary worldly wisdom makes the soul proud, futile, inflated and puffed up with wind. 

Just like St. Benedict in Chapter Seven of the Rule on humility.................which leads to full confidence in God. Of course, if one sees who flawed one is, one can only trust in God.

So let this be the fundamental spiritual doctrine leading to the knowledge of God, his service and familiarity with him, that if you want to truly possess God, you must strip your heart of all love of things of the senses, not just of certain creatures, so that you can turn to the Lord your God with a simple and whole heart and with all your power, freely and without any double-mindedness, care or anxiety, but with full confidence in his providence alone about everything.

Part 22 Doctors of the Church and Perfection-Albert the Great and the "Shipwreck of this Present Age"

Because this is heavy stuff at this time of intensity for all of us. I shall try and unpack as much as I can.

I shall have several days on Albert the Great. One could do worse than study him for the rest of one's life. And, after him, comes, of course, his most famous student, Thomas Aquinas...

Too much, like a overdose of chocolate!

Chapter 5

On purity of heart which is to be sought above all things

If your desire and aim is to reach the destination of the path and home of true happiness, of grace and glory, by a straight and safe way then earnestly apply your mind to seek constant purity of heart, clarity of mind and calm of the senses. Gather up your heart’s desire and fix it continually on the Lord God above. To do so you must withdraw yourself so far as you can from friends and from everyone else, and from the activities that hinder you from such a purpose. Grasp every opportunity when you can find the place, time and means to devote yourself to silence and contemplation, and gathering the secret fruits of silence, so that you can escape the shipwreck of this present age and avoid the restless agitation of the noisy world. 

This sounds like all my posts in the past week. Think about his call to get away, somehow. 

For this reason apply yourself at all times to purity, clarity and peace of heart above all things, so that, so far as possible, you can keep the doors of your heart resolutely barred to the forms and images of the physical senses and worldly imaginations by shutting off the doors of the physical senses and turning within yourself. After all, purity of heart is recognised as the most important thing among all spiritual practices, as its final aim, and the reward for all the labours that a spiritual-minded person and true religious may undertake in this life.

For this reason you should with all care, intelligence and effort free your heart, senses and desires from everything that can hinder their liberty, and above all from everything in the world that could possibly bind and overcome you. 

Seek freedom of heart, which is a type of objectivity. Ask for the grace to have freedom of desires.

So struggle in this way to draw together all the distractions of your heart and desires of your mind into one true, simple and supreme good, to keep them gathered within yourself in one place, and by this means to remain always joined to things divine and to God in your mind, to abandon the unreliable things of earth, and be able to translate your mind continually to the things above within yourself in Jesus Christ. 

I am reminded of the hymn by Ka­tha­ri­na A. von Schle­gel, and the music of Sibelius

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.

Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.

Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

To which end, if you have begun to strip and purify yourself of images and imaginations and to simplify and still your heart and mind in the Lord God so that you can draw and taste the well of divine grace in everything within yourself, and so that you are united to God in your mind by a good will, then this itself is enough for you in place of all study and reading of holy scripture, and as demonstration of love of God and neighbour, as devotion itself testifies. So simplify your heart with all care, diligence and effort so that still and at peace from the products of the imagination you can turn round and remain always in the Lord within yourself, as if your mind were already in the now of eternity, that is of the godhead. 

In this way you will be able to renounce yourself through love of Jesus Christ, with a pure heart, clean conscience and unfeigned faith, and commit yourself completely and fully to God in all difficulties and eventualities, and be willing to submit yourself patiently to his will and good pleasure at all times. 

For this to come about you must repeatedly retreat into your heart and remain there, keeping yourself free from everything, so far as is possible

You must always keep the eye of your mind clear and still. You must guard your understanding from daydreams and thoughts of earthly things. You must completely free the inclination of your will from worldly cares and cling with all your being to the supreme true good with fervent love. You must keep your memory always lifted up and firmly anchored in that same true supreme good and only uncreated reality. In just this way your whole mind gathered up with all its powers and faculties in God, may become one spirit with him, in whom the supreme perfection of life is known to consist. This is the true union of spirit and love by which a man is made compliant to all the impulses of the supreme and eternal will, so that he becomes by grace what God is by nature. 

At the same time it should be noted that in the very moment in which one is able, by God’s help, to overcome one’s own will, that is to cast away from oneself inordinate love or strong feeling, in other words so as to dare simply to trust God completely in all one’s needs, by this very fact one becomes so pleasing to God that his grace is imparted to one, and through that very grace one experiences that true love and devotion which drives out all uncertainty and fear and has full confidence in God. What is more, there can be no greater happiness than to place one’s all in him who lacks nothing. 

This is key to Albert's understanding of love--freedom from fear and full confidence in God.

So why do you still remain in yourself where you cannot stay. Cast yourself, all of yourself, with confidence into God and he will sustain you, heal you and make you safe. If you dwell on these things faithfully within, they will do more to confer a happy life on you than all riches, pleasures and honours, and above all the wisdom and knowledge of this present deceitful world and its life, even if you were to excel in them all that ever lived.

To be continued.....

More from the Great Albert: Part 21 in the Doctors of the Church series

More on the way of perfection from this saint, Albert the Great. All highlights are my own. My commentary is in blue, to make it easier to follow.

Chapter 4

How man’s activity should be purely in the intellect and not in the senses

Happy therefore is the person who by continual removal of fantasies and images, by turning within, and raising the mind to God, finally manages to dispense with the products of the imagination, and by so doing works within, nakedly and simply, and with a pure understanding and will, on the the simplest of all objects, God. So eliminate from your mind all fantasies, objects, images and shapes of all things other than God, so that, with just naked understanding, intent and will, your practice will be concerned with God himself within you. 

In this day and age of television, movies, video games, computer games and such, it is even harder to clear the mind and imagination of images. But, this must be done. Advertising and news add to the problem of clearing the mind. Reading news is much better, without all the images. Without a quiet mind and purified imagination, one cannot come to God. Imagination may be part of the brain or in the soul...that is not my concern here today. But, the purification of this is.....

For this is the end of all spiritual exercises - to turn the mind to the Lord God and rest in him with a completely pure understanding and a completely devoted will, without the entanglements and fantasies of the imagination. This sort of exercise is not practised by fleshly organs nor by the exterior senses, but by that by which one is indeed a man. For a man is precisely understanding and will. For that reason, in so far as a man is still playing with the products of the imagination and the senses, and holds to them, it is obvious that he has not yet emerged from the motivation and limitations of his animal nature, that is of that which he shares in common with the animals. For these know and feel objects by means of recognised shapes and sense impressions and no more, since they do not possess the higher powers of the soul.

One sees again the connection between Ignatius of Loyola and Albert. But, these connections are based on who we are as men and women. We are not merely animals, reacting to stimuli, but have reason and will power.

 But it is different with man, who is created in the image and likeness of God with understanding, will, and free choice, through which he should be directly, purely and nakedly impressed and united with God, and firmly adhere to him. For this reason the Devil tries eagerly and with all his power to hinder this practice so far as he can, being envious of this in man, since it is a sort of prelude and initiation of eternal life. 

Satan is jealous, envious, as he has lost heaven forever. All he cares about is making as many people miserable as himself. He works on the mind. He is highly intelligent and watches for our weaknesses. He cannot read our minds, but he listens to everything we say and watches what we do.

Silence keeps him out of the loop, if we allow our minds and imaginations to be purified.

So he is always trying to draw man’s mind away from the Lord God, now by temptations or passions, now by superfluous worries and pointless cares, now by restlessness and distracting conversation and senseless curiosity, now by the study of subtle books, irrelevant discussion, gossip and news, now by hardships, now by opposition, etc. 

Are there not too many, way too many distractions in our lives? For me as well, coming out of the convent last December, to be in Dublin and try to be quiet was so hard. I was in shock for a week after I came out because of the bombardment of images, thoughts, stupid conversations, unnecessary books, news and stuff.  After a while, I found out how to cultivated silence in myself. Yes, it is possible and I am still learning.

Such matters may seem trivial enough and hardly sinful, but they are a great hindrance to this holy exercise and practice. 

Seeking perfection is going beyond sin.....

Therefore, even if they may appear useful and necessary, they should be rejected, whether great or small, as harmful and dangerous, and put out of our minds. Above all therefore it is necessary that things heard, seen, done and said, and other such things, must be received without adding things from the imagination, without mental associations and without emotional involvement, and one should not let past or future associations, implications or constructs of the imagination form and grow

One must learn to live in the present and not the past. So many people live in the past. Get over it. So many people live in the future. Forget that. Just deal with today.

. For when constructs of the imagination are not allowed to enter the memory and mind, a man is not hindered, whether he be engaged in prayer, meditation, or reciting psalms, or in any other practice or spiritual exercise, nor will they recur again. So commit yourself confidently and without hesitation, all that you are, and everything else, individually and in general, to the unfailing and totally reliable providence of God, in silence and in peace, and he will fight for you. 

This changed my life. When I totally committed myself to Divine Providence, peace flooded my soul. I have NO FEAR.

He will liberate you and comfort you more fully, more effectively and more satisfactorily than if you were to dream about it all the time, day and night, and were to cast around frantically all over the place with the futile and confused thoughts of your mind in bondage, nor will you wear out your mind and body, wasting your time, and stupidly and pointlessly exhausting your strength. 

Our works are useless until we get to this point. Do it early in life. Do not waste time and effort. The Kingdom of God needs this type of freedom in you.

So accept everything, separately and in general, wherever it comes from and whatever its origin, in silence and peace, and with an equal mind, as coming to you from a father’s hand and his divine providence. 

I have quoted St. Thomas More before--nothing happens which is not God's Will. All, even suffering and deprivation are for His Glory. My Benedictine master wrote that the Rule is for the laity as well. I believe this...St. Benedict has inspiration and insight from God, just as Albert did. These ideas are repeated over and over by the great saints. 

So render your imagination bare of the images of all physical things as is appropriate to your state and profession, so that you can cling to him with a bare and undivided mind, as you have so often and so completely vowed to do, without anything whatever being able to come between your soul and him, so that you can pass purely and unwaveringly from the wounds of his humanity into the light of his divinity.

The way of perfection leads to this light of His Divinity and to the Unitive State finally. To be continued.....