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Wednesday 13 November 2013

Is anyone caring about this?

A short poem

Tardy robin in an orange tree, waiting for snowflakes
making sure winter has come to Illinois.

It holds a noble head up to the wind, sensing the
change, but I wonder why it is so late, so alone.

A squirrel runs back and forth, up and down the
yellow tree next to Mr. Robin's perch. With pieces

of pumpkin in its mouth, the squirrel scurries up the
rough bark, stops, eats, and runs back to the

welcoming porch below. Someone feeds it
on a regular basis, as it knows the territory.

Finally, the robin moves out, perhaps south,
perhaps to another orange tree somewhere

in this peaceful suburb. Autumn ends early
this year and white snow interrupts this idyll of

orange and yellow.

More, more on discernment

Returning to St. Ignatius seems a good thing to do today. Talking with someone revealed yet more confusion about the term discernment, and the major understanding of discernment for us comes through the writings and direction of St. Ignatius, as well as the Doctors of the Church. I have written about this before, so check out the tags.

I think the problem is that the new agers and the charismatics have co-opted the term to mean something which it is not. Discernment for all is the recognition of the movements of the soul and the movements of God in one’s spiritual life.

Now, some people need a confessor or a spiritual director to do this type of examination. But, discernment is connected to wisdom, and to our baptismal virtues and gifts. A child can experience discernment, and some do, if they are in the state of grace.

That is the first key to understanding discernment. One must be in the state of grace to see and hear the Voice of God in one’s soul.  Meditation, using the Scriptures and daily examination of conscience develop discernment.

If one is working on one’s predominant faults, discernment grows.

The intellect and the will are involved in the development of discernment, which is why so many anti-intellectual charismatics do not exhibit discernment.

Sadly, there are too many false prophets and teachers, who are not orthodox and do not understand the basics of either sacramental theology or the theology of prayer. I have met too many people who are leading Catholics astray by a false emphasis on feelings and experiences, and I have many articles on such here on this blog. That the charismatic emphasis on experience has infiltrated many retreat and conference centers reveals a weakness in the Church.

The enemy of the soul can take a small bit of truth and wrap it up in heresy.

If a person who is giving a talk or presenting a retreat or workshop is not absolutely, completely orthodox, do not go and do not listen. Recently, I encountered someone who was off on some aspects of Church teaching. I cannot trust him, as he is thinking like a Protestant. Satan will use such people not only to undermine the authority of the Church, but to cause confusion as to the process of becoming holy.

I can see that the person has a gift, but because of the imperfections and sin of heresy, the gift is not free to be used as God would want it used. The need for purgation would clarify that man’s soul so that the gift would be available for the building up of the Catholic Church and not for the building up of that person’s personal ministry.

There is no such thing as a personal ministry, but only calls within the Church and within the Tradition and Teachings of the Church. Anything else must be suspect. One of the weaknesses of the Church in our times has been the undermining of the authority of the Church by those who are off doing their own thing.  There is no automatic virtue in being on the fringes of the institutional Church. Can people be called to such? Yes, but rarely, and the numbers doing so do not indicate necessarily the movement of the Holy Spirit, but the egos of those setting up their own patch.

Discernment comes with obedience to Mother Church is all things, in all details. Remember that the great saints who give us direction in the spiritual life, such as SS. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales and others all had grounding in the doctrines of the Church. 

There are too many false leaders claiming infused knowledge, which again, is a grace at the later stages of holiness.

Discernment is built on orthodoxy, and there is no difference between doctrinal and pastoral approaches to truth. If a person claims that something pastoral trumps a doctrine of the Church, that person is in error.  The Holy Spirit works in order and in and through the Church.

Please remember that. Those false prophets who are going about “discerning” spirits or vices, or the need for “inner healing” and who are not straight down the wicket orthodox will be deceiving you as they have deceived themselves. They will do more damage than good.

Again, the real gifts come to fruition in the Illuminative State, and one cannot even enter the middle and later stages of the Dark Night without moving away from serious sin, such as unorthodoxy.

To be anti-intellectual is not to be a Catholic. To be caught up in thinking that theology is not part of discernment is to be in serious error.

Discernment involves the intellect and the will. True discernment follows the heart and the mind of the Church.

More on the choice of following Christ

Two, if not the greatest evils, of our times are the mad pursuits of comfort and the avoidance of suffering at all costs. Immorality provides a symptom of this headlong rush away from the Cross.

Only those who fall in love with Christ and willingly accept suffering of any kind will enter the Kingdom, as those who avoid pain deceive themselves regarding sin and judgment.

Now, the pursuit of comfort is more of a problem with those in the West, and I am particularly thinking of the Americans and the English, than some other cultures, which cannot avoid less than perfect conditions. Satan lies to us, tempting us to believe that we deserve comfort.

On the contrary….and those few who allow God to take them in to the transforming union, have also faced great suffering.

The suffering of the soul in the Illuminative and then, the Unitive stages is a different type of suffering. It is the suffering of the absence of complete union with God.

St. John of the Cross uses the term “contemplation” at these stages and again, I warn the laity against those false teachers, be they nuns or priests, who think they are teaching contemplation, when this is a direct gift of the last stages of perfection.

I have tried to wean people away from this term, as it is misleading. Contemplation comes in the Dark Night, as a darkness and moved into a peaceful, clear knowledge of God, as He is revealing Himself in the Trinity.

Contemplation comes in the Tranforming Union.

Here is a little summary of this process from St. John. He is referring to the bride of Christ.

“First, her soul is detached and withdrawn from all things.
Second, the devil is conquered and put to flight. Third, the passions are subjected
and the natural appetites mortified.  Fourth and fifth, the sensory and lower part is reformed, purified, and brought into conformity with the spiritual part. The sensory part not only offers no obstacle to the reception of these spiritual blessings, but is even accommodated to them since it participates according to its capacity in the goods the souls now possesses…
The bride sets all this perfection and preparedness before her beloved, the Son of God, with the desire that He transfer her from the spiritual marriage, to which He desired to bring her in this Church Militant, to the glorious marriage of the Triumphant. May the most sweet Jesus, bridegroom of faithful souls, be pleased to bring all who invoke His name to this glorious marriage. To Him be honor and glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in saecula saeculorum. Amen.”

I am not going to write more on the sacred movements of the Transforming Union, as there is always a danger that people will think they are farther ahead then they really are on the road to perfection.

St. John helped many lay persons and nuns with his poetry and commentaries. I shall return to him again soon, but take a break from the heady wine of the Illuminative and Unitive States.

Again, the timing of the Dark Night is completely personal. I know some people who have gone through this stage for many years. And, obviously, many of the saints took no time at all in the mysterious state of darkness.

Note....some of us know what this feels like.....slightly

Pay Attention, Get Ready, Pray

“My God and all things.”

What have the Illuminative State and the Unitive State have to do with Catholics in this time of coming trials?

Some readers understand that only those who truly love God and His Church will be able to withstand the tribulations to come. And, this fact has always been so in times of trouble for the Church. The great martyrs, such as St. John Houghton and his companions, mentioned many times on this blog, were ready for the horrible torments they suffered at Tyburn.

But, the ability to withstand physical pain and endure martyrdom to receive the palm of victory are not the only reasons for pursuing the way of perfection now, in these times of uncertainty.

As I have noted many times, the Church realizes a strength and perfection if Her members are perfected, and experiences weakness and loss, if Her members do not pursue the love of God in all things.

But, the Illuminative and Unitive States of the saint do much more than strengthen the Church. These states bring God into the midst of humankind.

Because in these states, the person is one with God as far as possible on this earth, there is a unity of God and person in the Trinity.  In other words, God is present in the person experiencing this transcendent relationship, and that person is in God in all Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Such a transcendent relationship cannot help but change the world, as God is Present in, with, and through the person.  The person communicates God to all.

This powerful experience of the Divine brings life, God’s life, to the world in an overflowing of love.

Of course, the problem is that most of the time, the world does not want this love and purposefully thwarts those who bring the Trinity into its midst.

Such is the irony of the human condition, that the very persons who could and do change the world are usually the ones persecuted by the world.

That God reveals His attributes to the person in these states means that the person experiences, understands and lives in beauty, truth, wisdom, peace, and so on.

Such is the witness of the saint.

That some people do not experience this oneness with God, this spiritual marriage, until right before death does not diminish the witness. However, as we see in the lives of the saints, those generous souls who have allowed God to perfect them give us a tremendous witness of love and grace.

Just think of the cloud of witnesses, like Theresa, the Little Flower, Gemma Galgani, Edmund Campion, Oliver Plunkett, Pius X, Fulton J. Sheen and so on--these men and women who give us a glimpse of life in the Trinity.

There is too much facile theology floating around about living in the life of the Trinity. That we are given this life in baptism and confirmation is true, but that those graces can only be released through purgation of sin and the tendency to sin is also true.

You will know if you are in the presence of one who is in the Illuminative or Unitive State. You will know if you are in the presence of a saint.

Sadly, this does not happen often enough in our day and age, as there are so many choices and so many distractions for most people.

I have met many people in the Dark Night and even the last stages of the Dark Night. I saw twice, and touched once, Blessed John Paul II, but before his long purgation and suffering. I believe we watched him become a saint.

Some readers may have met saints, even some who have been martyred.  Those Catholics are role models for all of us.

As to the main thesis of this post, that these states most likely are necessary for Catholics to withstand the coming persecutions, I would say that those who went before us were a bit smarter at reading the signs of the times.

I cannot imagine that the earliest Catholics were caught off guard concerning trials. And, it is obvious that such saints as Edmund Campion were trained to face the certain death when leaving the Venerable English College in Rome and traveling to England. As some of you know, St. Philip Neri would stand outside the Venerabile and bless those young priests going to England, saying, “There go the Flowers of the Martyrs”.

Are you preparing yourself and your children for trials by pursuing holiness, which is another word for perfection?

Are you too caught up in trivia to make holiness a priority in your family? Are you all pursuing sports, entertainments, unnecessary shopping, vacations, and ignoring prayer, formation, penances, frequent confession and Holy Communion?

Are you acting as if your children will not need to be different, special, super-Catholics and saints in the days to come?

Do you think they will face a world like yours and mine growing up?

Are you forming saints? I see too many families wasting time on trivia.

Do not lie to yourselves and think holiness just “happens”.  Even St. Thomas More admitted that he needed his long time in prison to get ready for death after watching the singing of the Charterhouse monks, going to their deaths, “like bridegrooms to the wedding.”

Such are the actions of the perfect, those who have gone through the Illuminative and Unitive States, and bear witness joyfully to the vision of the Trinity in the world.

I have met many people lately who are acting as if they have all the time in the world to pursue holiness. I have met too many people who are in denial regarding the signs of the times. And, these people are not young.

I have met too many people who think Catholics can live in America or Europe with the freedoms experienced by their forefathers.

I have met too many people who are wasting time and may be swept away, and compromise when the going gets tough.

For the past several weeks, the urgency of allowing God to make one holy has been a recurring theme on this blog.

God is pouring out His grace and mercy on us now.  The time of grace will end. Look the history of the Church.

Do not think you can act as you have always acted.

When the Son of Man comes, all will be as it was in the days of Noe; in those days before the flood, they went on eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the time when Noe entered the ark, and they were taken unawares, when the flood came and drowned them all; so it will be a the coming of the Son of Man.”

Matthew 24:37-39

Let these ideals be your guide. Be open to suffering anything in order to become one with God. Be generous is saying yes to graces God wants to give.  Be willing to be different than all those around you and your families-even other Catholics who are not paying attention.

Give yourselves to God entirely now.  Then, like St. Francis, as quoted by St. John of the Cross, you will be able to pray, “My God and all things.”

To be continued….

Frustration And A Mini-Rant

The idiocy of so many Catholics these days is that they are arguing about the wrong issues.

The famous phrase of “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” comes to mind after listening to some conversations which indicate
that the vast majority of Catholics cannot see the imminent dangers facing their religious freedoms.

Idiocy means to me that one has the capacity to find out the truth about situations, but one refuses to do so.

Why are so many American Catholics believing that things are going to be OK in America, and that the European situation is different?


Americans are losing rights at such a fast rate that most people are not realizing what will conspire in a short period of time, which
will be no freedom of religion for anyone who disagrees with the new state religion-whatever that will be, which includes abortion,
contraception mandates, same-sex marriage, core curriculum and so on.

When a government creates laws and programs separated from the natural law and from the Ten Commandments, which are
expressions of natural law, one’s freedoms become arbitrary.  To separate governance from God, and specifically from the
one true faith, which is Catholicism, will lead more and more to morals being interpreted by those in power. Period.

Someone pointed out to me the illegality of the martial law situation in Boston neighborhoods after the bombings this
past summer. Did anyone object? Are there lawsuits against the police, or the CIA, or any other special ops?

Our Founding Fathers would not have believed the house to house search without personal warrants, or the curfews.

For this type of tyranny, they wrote out our Constitutional rights.  Hey, these are going, going, gone.

And, who seems to care? Some of us did not like the Patriot Act, seeing it as a knee-jerk reaction which would
erode the rights of citizens.  This has happened.

Few voices have sounded above the great silence of ignorance, idiocy or just plain ennui.

Few voices in Europe have sounded the alarms at the growing power of the Hague and the losing of national sovereignty
among the nation-states.

Why the silence?  Comfort? Money? Apathy?

Those parents with children need to pay attention. Government is out of hand, out of ours hands and it is supposed to be in
our hands.  Teach your children well.

A Bit on The Illuminative and Unitive States....more to come

Kieran Kavanaugh, whose translation and notes I have been using in the past few weeks, clarifies St. John of the Cross’ poetry by clearly translating the commentaries.

St. John’s commentaries are what I have been mostly using in the past few weeks, as those who have been following the series noticed that I switched from one translation to Kavanaugh’s

Two points stand out on the characteristics of the Illuminative and Unitive Stages, to which I have been referring during the perfection and Dark Night series in the past two years.

Those people who enter into the Illuminative, and finally, the Unitive States, work totally out of love for God and not out of their egos.

Here is one of the key stanzas from The Spiritual Canticle concerning this stress on love.

If, then, I am no longer
Seen or found on the common,
You will say that I am lost,
That sticken by love,
I lost myself, and was found.

The soul lost is love becomes one, as it were, contra mundi.  The world rejects the beloved, “and think(s) these person excessive in their conduct, estrangement, and withdrawal, and asset that they are useless in important matters and lost to what the world esteems”.

Too often, those of us who seek the love of God and find Him, are misunderstood, and, indeed, judged by the world, which wants all people to not only conform to the flesh and the world, but applaud the pursuits of wealth and status as well.

Here is a longer comment by St. John on this point. This comment is damning and reveals, again, the lack of generosity of most who want to follow Christ and serve His Church but pull back.

“Few spiritual persons reach such daring and determination in their works. Though some do act this way, and are considered far advanced, they never lose themselves entirely in some matters, whether worldly or natural, and never execute works fr Christ with perfection and nakedness of spirit and without thought of what others will say or how their work will appear. Since these persons are not lost to themselves in their work, they cannot declare, ‘You will say that I am lost.’ They are still ashamed to confess Christ before others by their works. Because of their human respect they do not live entirely in Christ.”

One cannot lose one’s self in Christ, in love, until after the purging of the ego. How many good works in the Church have been ruined by those who think they are doing God’s work, but are merely stroking their own egos?  The lack of love is key. If one truly has found the Bridegroom, nothing else matters but Christ and His Church-nothing.

Again, a generosity of spirit is not only necessary, but vital, giving life to the hard walk to perfection. And, the goal is Christ Himself.

Those who are canonized by the Church have reached this level of forgetfulness of self while on earth.

Those who have been canonized show us the way not only of perfection, but of love for God, in God, and with God-the one thing necessary.

So, an easily seen sign of the Illuminative and Unitive States is this love of God, which spurns all cares of the world and places the person in Christ.

To be continued….

Pushing Augustine

Many, many years ago, in a great on line college, I taught some of the works of St. Augustine for beginners. I covered Confessions and the City of God. I had great fun and was sad when the course ended. I had taught Confessions in another course, but this one gave me time to go over the books in greater detail.

Recently, I have dipped into City of God again and I am happily surprised how timely St. Augustine’s message is for us today.

Two points, merely, to show this great Doctor of the Church’s relevance.

One, his discussion on hell is complete and covers Scriptural references in a clear manner. If anyone needs some ammunition in conversations with those who are denying the existence of hell or the fact that there may or may not be people in hell, St. Augustine is your source.  Part Five, The Ends of the Two Cities, would be the source for some information. And, as I pointed out to some dear TAC students many years ago, one is a bit arrogant to argue with St. Augustine, at least on this point.

Two, his discussion on those who live in the flesh and those who live in the spirit may help many readers who are struggling with these hard times to get some perspective.
In Book XIV, one reads a description of the City of Man as if one is watching the news.

Take time to dip into St. Augustine’s Confessions and City of God. Reading the classics and the works of the Doctors of the Church is all we need to do, really, plus the Scriptures and the encyclicals.

Pass wisdom on to your children by knowing the great Doctors. You can also read my mini-series on the Doctors of the Church on this blog.  Follow the tags.

On Recognizing Cults

I am concerned about the emergence of some new cults seemingly connected to the Church.

I am concerned about some which at first do not look like cults, but are.

I am going to list a few ways to discern is something is cultic. If more than four are answered in the negative or if the answers are vague, beware.

1)      Are the founders treated like gods and not like humans?
2)      Are the founders holy men or holy women?
3)      Are the founders’ lives transparent?
4)      Is there a cult of personality connected with the founders? If so, this is a bad sign.
5)      Are the rules and regulations of the group open and on line?
6)      Can one ask questions and get answers concerning the group?
7)      If one asks questions, and one does not get a reply, are reasons given?
8)      Are the ministries of the group approved by the Vatican?
9)      Are the ministries in keeping with long established ministries in the Church?
10)  Are the lay people free to come and go and discuss openly the group?
11)  If there are writings, books, speeches by the members, as these readily available?
12)  Does the group have diocesan approved spiritual directors, and not “roaming” priests?
13)  If there are spiritual directors, are these priests under the authority of a bishop or bishops?
14)  If the works of the group have nihil obstats or imprimaturs, are these from bishops who are noted for their integrity?
15)  Has there been any whiff of a scandal regarding the group?
16)  Are the financial backings clear and available?
17)  Can people who belong to the group have friends and companions outside the group?
18)  Can people who belong to the group talk freely about the events and even the organization of their day with those outside the group?
19)  Are the teachings of the group in line with the Teaching Magisterium of the Church?

20)  Does the group support spurious, unapproved apparitions or visionaries?