“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26)

“The Mass is like the sun which daily illumines and warms all Christian life.” (Saint John Fisher)

On the surface of planet earth each morning the reenactment of Calvary-Love takes place in so many thousands of venues around the world – making present to us the only sacrifice capable of saving us. Life on planet earth is about salvation: it is a salvation history story. It is a story different from any other story because crucial chapters of this salvation story completed two thousand years ago are vividly made real to us each morning when Mass is said: and not only in Jerusalem (where Jesus said the first Mass) but in practically every country in the world, day in and day out, “until He comes.”

On the surface of planet earth each morning supernatural food is being harvested and placed in people’s mouths for the salvation of their souls. Who can rightly calculate the value of one single Mass on planet earth?

Father Garrigou-Lagrange states:

“…the Mass ought each morning to be the eminent source from which spring the graces we need in the course of the day, the source of light and of warmth, similar, in the spiritual order, to the sunrise in the order of nature. After the night and sleep, which are an image of death, the sun reappearing each morning restores, so to speak, life to all that awakens on the surface of the earth. If we had a profound understanding of the value of daily Mass, we would see that it is like a spiritual sunrise that renews, preserves, and increases in our souls the life of grace, which is eternal life begun. Too often, however, the habit of assisting at Mass degenerates into routine for want of a spirit of faith, and then we no longer receive from the Holy Sacrifice all the fruits that we should. Yet the Mass ought to be the greatest act of each of our days, and in the life of a Christian, more notably of a religious, all other daily acts, especially all the other prayers and little sacrifices that we ought to offer to God in the course of the day, should be only the accompaniment of that act” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life).

Consider, then, if only for a moment, the value of one Holy Communion. Father Faber states:

No one can tell how much grace lies in a single Sacrament. In a single communion lies all grace; for in it is the Author and Fountain of all grace; and, if the theological opinion be true, that there is no grace in any of his members which has not actually been first in our Lord himself, then all the grace of all the world lies in one Communion, to be unsealed and enjoyed by the degree of fervor by which we bring. The saints have said that a single Communion was enough to make a saint” (The Precious Blood).

Father Lovasik, quoting from a commentary on The Imitation of Christ, adds:

“Who can conceive or explain the excellence of the all-Divine gift which Jesus Christ bestows upon us in giving us His blessed body and blood in the Holy Eucharist, in which we receive God with all his perfections, the plentitude of His Divinity, all the virtues and graces of his humanity, and all the merits of the man-God” (A Novena of Holy Communions, TAN).

Finally, Father Garrigou-Lagrange speaks to our desire for Eucharistic nourishment:

“All food is good when we are hungry. A rich man, accidentally deprived of food and famished, is happy to find black bread; he thinks it is the best meal of his life and he feels refreshed. If we hungered for the Eucharist, our Communion would be most fruitful. We should recall what this hunger was in St. Catherine of Siena; so great was it that one day when she had been harshly refused Communion, a particle of the large host became detached at the moment when the priest broke it in two, and was miraculously brought to the saint in response to the ardor of her desire. How can we have this hunger for the Eucharist? The answer lies in our being firmly convinced that the Eucharist is the indispensable food of our soul and in generously making some sacrifices every day” (Three Ages of the Interior Life).

Comment: (Relying on Father Faber). Pause for a moment to consider how very, very fortunate we are to have this amazing sacrament. And then consider the power each holy communion has to transform our lives and to make us more and more like the one whom we receive. What mind, save the mind of God, could have conceived of such an amazing means of grace! And then think about how available this magnificent sacrament is to us: throughout the very area where we live many masses are being said every day in order that this tremendous grace may be made available to us, not just once a year, or once a month, but every day! Would it not be incredibly prudent to try and receive the Lord as much as possible? What holds us back?

Father Faber, from whom these thoughts proceed, states:

“I hardly know anything upon which I should lay greater stress in these days than a fervent devotion to the Sacraments.”

Pray to Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, for a great desire for Holy Communion, the bread of Eternal Life.

Tom Mulcahy

Reference: Primarily The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Father Garrigou-LaGrange. See the chapters on the Mass and Holy Communion.

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(Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem)

The claim is made by some scholars that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. These scholars put forth the argument that Jesus was actually born in his hometown of Nazareth, and that the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is more or less a Jewish midrash or theological reflection not strictly rooted in historical facts but in theological story-telling and interpretation. Against this argument I would like to make the following points:

1. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke clearly state that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:1; Luke 2: 1-7).

2. None of the remaining 25 books of the New Testament contradict the claim in Matthew and Luke that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

3. There is no historical evidence that places Jesus’ birth in Nazareth. Historian Dr. Paul L. Maier states:

“No source has been discovered to date that disproves Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem” (In the Fullness of Time, p. 32).

4. Dr. Scott Hahn establishes that Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth is not midrash. Hahn states:

“Unlike midrash, the evangelist’s story of Jesus is not founded on an Old Testament text. Whereas midrash seeks to mine deeper meanings of the Old Testament, Matthew does not seek to interpret the Old Testament for its own sake. More to the point, Matthew is not retelling Old Testament episodes but is telling an entirely new story! It is a story with new characters and events; it is a story that could stand on its own apart from his Old Testament citations. Matthew employs the Old Testament to illuminate the significance of Jesus’ birth, not to determine in advance its plot and outcome” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p.10).

5. Pope Benedict XVI adds:

“The infancy narratives [of Matthew and Luke] are not a meditation presented under the guise of stories, but the converse: Matthew is recounting real history, theologically thought through and interpreted, and thus he helps us to understand the mystery of Jesus more deeply. What Matthew and Luke set out to do, each in his own way, was not to tell ‘stories’ but to write history, real history that actually happened, admittedly interpreted and understood in the context of the word of God” (from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, 119, 17 as quoted in Joy To The World).

6.  Moreover, Luke the historian assures us in his Gospel that he is delivering to his readers “a narrative of things that have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” and that Luke has “followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account…that you may know the truth concerning” the life of Jesus (Luke 1: 1-4). Luke assures his readers, therefore, that he has made considerable efforts to present a true and accurate history of the life of Jesus.

7. The post New Testament historical evidence clearly establishes that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Historian, Professor Paul L. Maier explains:

“Nothing is more important in establishing the authenticity of an ancient site than antiquity: the place must have been regarded as such from the earliest times. If the Church of the Nativity [in Bethlehem] had been built here in 600 A.D., for example, its claim to mark the authentic site of the birth of Jesus would be almost worthless. But Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of Rome, erected the original Church of the Nativity at this place in 326 A.D., over the very grotto that had been identified as the true site by the early church father Origen and, before him, Justin Martyr. Writing in 150 A.D. Justin stated that Jesus was born in a cave that was used as a stable – not the typical stone or wooden stable so familiar in Christian art. Earlier still, in the 130s, the Pagan Roman Emperor Hadrian tried to desecrate the Jewish and Christian holy places in Palestine, but ironically, thereby preserved their identity” (In the Fullness of Time, 38-39)!

8. Dr. Scott Hahn elaborates:

“Justin Martyr…was born around AD 100…some forty miles north of Bethlehem. He knew the people and the area quite well, and he knew the site of a ‘certain cave’ that the locals venerated as the place of Jesus’ birth – even at that early date. He simply mentions that local Christians took care to preserve the historical memory of the nativity. In the century after Justin’s account…Origen made his own pilgrimage to Bethlehem and wrote: ‘At Bethlehem the cave is shown where he [Jesus] was born…and this sight is greatly talked about in surrounding places, even among the enemies of the faith. They say that in this cave Jesus was born….” (Joy to the World, p. 17).

9. The great Biblical archaeologist, Father Jerome Murphy-O’Conner, thus concludes that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is indisputable.

“If the early Church thought of Jesus in terms of Davidic messianism – and it certainly did – it was not because of anything Jesus said or did but because of who he was and where he came from. And he came from Bethlehem” (“Where Was Jesus Born?”, Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 54 as cited in Joy To The World, p. 106).

10. Based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and confirmed by the post New Testament historical evidence regarding the location of Jesus’ birth, the overwhelming weight of the evidence supports the sound conclusion that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image Attribution: This picture of the Church of the Nativity on Wikipedia is by Ian and Wendy Sewell, July 2007, and is used pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The Catholic spiritual practice of Purity of Heart is one of the most important spiritual disciplines we can and should make use of. The Catholic cognitive discipline of purity of heart monitors and detects disordered and evil thoughts, capturing them and deleting them as hostile to growth in holiness.

By the practice of purity of heart we keep a very careful watch over all the thoughts being presented to our mind and over all the affections and passions being presented to our heart. By this careful watch, we almost immediately intercept and delete the thoughts and affections which violate purity of heart. Thus, as a very simple example, should I suddenly feel the desire to gossip about someone, I check out this movement of my heart, examine it, and ultimately suppress or delete it since it violates purity of heart. Or, as another example, should I suddenly feel swelling up in my heart ill-will towards a certain person, the practice of purity of heart obligates me to take a close look at this movement of my heart, and to mortify it, and to replace it with Christian charity and forgiveness. Gradually, by steadfastly and diligently practicing purity of heart, our heart becomes cleaner and cleaner. What do we want more in our lives than purity of heart? 

Purity of heart is a mechanism of introspection whereby we carefully look at our thoughts and affections, even moment by moment, to place them under Christ’s law of charity. As soon as we observe that our mind or affections are tending in a sinful direction, we immediately mortify such thoughts or affections, giving them no chance of growth within our souls.   Its sort of like we’ve installed security software in our brain that immediately detects and deletes bad stuff (God’s given us the software and all we have to do is learn how to use it!!). 

Father Jacques Philippe, the well known spiritual writer, recommends the practice of purity of heart in his very worthwhile book, In the School of the Holy Spirit (see Appendix II beginning on page 70, and pages 40-42 ). But the two giants of our Catholic spiritual heritage who speak so highly of practicing purity of heart are Father Lallemant (in his classic The SpirituaDoctrine), and Father Grou (in Manual for Interior Souls). Both Fathers Lallemant and Grou were French and Jesuit.

Father Lallemant recommends the practice of purity of heart in conjunction with regular, sacramental confession. He states:

“For the oftener we confess, the more we purify ourselves, the grace proper to this sacrament being purity of conscience. Thus, every confession, besides the increase of habitual grace and of the gifts, imparts also a fresh sacramental grace, that is to say, a new title to receive from God  both actual  graces and the aids necessary for emancipating ourselves more and more from sin.” (Father Lallemant, The Spiritual Doctrine, II,  Chapter 6, as cited in The Mystical Evolution, pages 99-100).

What an amazing purifying tool at your immediate disposal for growth in holiness: the practice of purity of heart! Its like an ongoing, perpetual examination of conscience that keeps all the junk out of our hearts and mind. And when the junk is gone, we become, as Father Lallemant insists, more docile to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, which we previously could not hear. This is why Father Lallemant says that “purity of heart accomplishes so much” in the spiritual life.

Dear friend, take captive every thought in obedience to the Gospel (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: Father Lallemant, The Spiritual Doctrine...purity of heart is one of his main doctrines for growth in holiness, and he formed saints!!! Saints Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brebeuf were his students. And also Father Grou as mentioned above. Matt Maher sings, “Hold my heart up to the light” in one of his songs. That is what the practice of purity of heart is: holding our heart up to the light!

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“But there’s only one thing you need. Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)


“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)

In the last chapter of his book, The Great Heresies, the famous Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, who died in 1953, discusses the nature of the final heresy to attack the Church which he calls “a wholesale assault on the fundamentals of the Faith – upon the very existence of the Faith.” The final heresy is therefore aimed at the complete destruction of the Catholic Church. And what is this final heresy, what is this manifestation of the Anti-Christ?, it is atheism. Belloc comments: “of such moment is the struggle immediately before the world.”

Belloc refers to atheism as the “Modern Attack” against the Church. He says the “modern attack is materialistic because in its philosophy it considers only material causes.” It is superstitious, as well, says Belloc, because it nourishes itself on “the silly vagaries of spiritualism…and other fantasies.” He mentions atheistic communism as one example of the “Modern Attack,” although perhaps a “passing one.”

Belloc maintains that this all-out attack against the Church is “now at our gates,” and he wrote The Great Heresies around 1938. He states that the “fruit” of the modern attack is to “undermine every form of restraint imposed by human experience acting through tradition,” but he maintains that there are other “evil effects” which may prove more permanent than the breakdown of sexual morality. He does say, however, that the “Modern Attack on the Faith will have in the moral field a thousand evil fruits….”

The “quarrel” we are in right now, says Belloc, “is between the Church and the anti-Church – the Church of God and the anti-God – the Church of Christ and the Anti-Christ.” Atheism thus represents the forces of the anti-God, and according to Belloc “the modern attack is far more advanced than is generally appreciated.” Even at the time he lived Belloc could say that “the mood of the faith has been largely ruined,” and that “we have already arrived at a strange pass” where the opponents of the Catholic Faith simply do not understand the Catholic Church. From this predicament, Belloc predicts that a new “paganism” will emerge that tends more towards cruelty than enlightenment.

Belloc predicts that “either we of the Faith shall become a small, persecuted, neglected island amid mankind, or we shall be able to lift at the end of the struggle the old battle cry, “Christus Imperat.”

Pray for the Church. Pray for the grace of perseverance.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The quote from Pope John Paul II was made when he was a Cardinal during a visit to the United States in 1976. Pope John Paul II spoke of “the confrontation between the culture of death and the culture of life” in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life. 

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                               “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

Just last week I came across two articles which both expressed deep concerns about the present direction of the Catholic Church under Pope Francis, and since both articles were written by sincere, prominent Catholics, I wanted to quickly summarize for you the essence of their concerns.

The first article was written by the prolific Catholic author, philosopher and theologian, Father James Schall, a Jesuit. The article caught my attention because it was entitled: “Why Be (or Continue to Be) Catholic?” –  a fairly provocative title from a sober minded priest. I have taken the liberty of providing a caption to the following four quotes which I have selected from Father Schall’s article (as expressive of his concerns).


“In the past several years, I have perceived a noticeable loss of intellectual acumen that the Church gained with John Paul II and Benedict. Many are upset by this lack of depth, especially more recent converts who came into the Church with the help of the vigorous thinking we still see in these two popes. But the main reason for the decline of Church membership is the desire to be like others in modern society. Many want Catholic teaching to be viewed and interpreted through a modern lens.”


“In thinking about these things, I again take my cue from the ‘heretics’ who refuse to leave the Church but stay in it to transform it, as they say, into their image of modernity. In the end, they can find no place else to go. They are already wrapped within modernity’s orbit. The effort from within to transform Christianity into modernity, to align its basic premises with those of the modern world, seems like a plausible, shrewd tactic. Many have already made this transition.”


“Why should we continue to be Catholic?” Much of the controversy that swirls around the Holy Father has, at its origin, the feeling that certain basic—once-thought non-negotiable—principles and practices have been denied or at least implicitly allowed to pass away. Under the aegis of finely tuned “mercy” and “discernment,” a method has been developed that would justify this accommodation of the Church to that modernity and its principles that everyone seems eager to embrace.”


“Only if one thing remains true and upheld. Only if the same teachings and practices that were handed down and guaranteed down the ages remain the foundation of the Church. This revelation in all its ramifications is what best explains human meaning and destiny. If the substance of this revelation is not upheld, the question is no longer a merely human problem of whether or not to be loyal to a tradition. It is the breakdown of revelation itself since it is no longer credible on its own terms. The guarantee of Christ is to be with us till the end, with the central teachings and practices of his life at the center. If this content and sequence is not maintained in a living way, i.e., in a thoroughly nuanced but plain way, we have no reason still to be Catholic.”

The second article in question was actually an interview with the Catholic convert and brilliant New York Times Columnist, Ross Douthat. Here is a pertinent excerpt from that interview (as summarized by Dorthy Cummings McLean) that goes to the heart of Douthat’s concerns about the Church:

The New York Times columnist [Ross Douthat] stated that Pope Francis has “pragmatically” backed an evangelization that has made a “truce with the sexual revolution.”

It is a “mistaken belief that there can be some sort of pastoral, pragmatic truce with the sexual revolution in the West that enables the Church to evangelize anew,” Douthat said.

“And that’s a real risk, for liberal Catholicism’s proposed truce can’t be reached without emptying out things that are distinctively and essentially Catholic, which the Church has admirably preserved for centuries,” he added.

Douthat said such a truce is strategically unwise, “for it simply doesn’t gain the ground that liberal Catholics imagine.” Instead, the truce ends up becoming “a tacit surrender” to the culture. In this way, the Church becomes an enabler, and a “meek and ineffective chaplaincy” to those who no longer know God, he added.”

COMMENTARY: It is hard not to detect tremendous concern for the well-being and authenticity of the Church in these words of Father Schall and Ross Douthat. By trying to accommodate or make a truce with modernity’s new vision of morality the Church, in essence, is destroying the foundation it was built upon. And a Church that was once viewed as the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) comes to be seen as a dying institution no longer capable of defending the morality it once treasured and its members were even willing to die for. The contamination of moral subjectivism or situation ethics entered the Church for the first time in Amoris Laetitia (see especially AL 301-303), even though the great Saint John Paul II had specifically warned that the adoption of such arguments would constitute serious error. See my previous post:


Pray for the Church. Pray steadfastly for the Church.

P.S. Here are links to both articles:

Why Be (or Continue to Be) Catholic? – Crisis Magazine


Leading U.S. Catholic commentator: It’s ‘legitimate’ to voice concerns …

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Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-39)

“In the evening of our life, we shall be judged by love” (St. John of the Cross)

Seeing the difficulty I was having in remembering the great commandment to love my neighbor, I once had the idea of getting a tattoo on my forearm, saying: DON’T FORGET TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. I never got the tattoo, but the principle remains the same – it is very easy to forget our obligation to love our neighbor. And sometimes it even seems as if we are programmed to find fault with our neighbor.

As good as we may be our corrupt and fallen nature is quite capable of nurturing resentment and contempt (dare I even mention hatred) towards our neighbor. And yet one of the foremost ways our virtue is tested is through the way we treat and interact with other people. In this sense there are numerous occasions to act virtuously each day because most of us are constantly coming into contact with other people, and even with difficult characters who test our virtue to the max. It would be a mistake to think that in this world of many temptations the devil fails to tempt us against the love of neighbor. In other words, we need to be on our guard and recognize when we are being tempted against the love of neighbor. To not recognize these temptations is the occasion for many falls – even serious falls.

We may even say to ourselves during such a temptation: “Ah, I see my heart is being moved not to like this guy; I will have to greatly check this impulse to speak unkindly to him, and I will give my best effort to act charitably towards him. Jesus help me.”

This whole matter of combating temptations against the love of neighbor is quite important, for the GREAT SIGN that we love God is our love of neighbor. Father Garrigou-Lagrange explains this principle quite well, relying on Saint Thomas Aquinas.

St. Thomas [states]: “Primarily and essentially, the perfection of the Christian life consists in charity, principally as to the love of God, secondarily as to the love of our neighbor, both of which are the matter of the chief commandments of the divine law. . . . Secondarily and instrumentally, however, perfection consists in the observance of the counsels.” The great sign of the love of God is precisely love of one’s neighbor. Christ Himself says so, and we cannot insist too strongly on this point: “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:34-35). This love of our neighbor is the great sign of the progress of the love of God in our hearts, so much so that St. John adds: “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1 John 2:9). “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. . . . Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:14-15).  (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, p. 154).

According to Father Garrigou Lagrange, we may even be called to the heroic love of neighbor as we grow in the perfection of charity:

St. Thomas points out also that in the perfect, charity toward one’s neighbor, the great sign of our love of God, extends not only to all in general, but as soon as the occasion presents itself to each of those with whom the perfect have relations, not only to friends but to strangers and even to adversaries. Moreover, this fraternal charity is intense in them, reaching even to the sacrifice of exterior goods and of life itself for the salvation of souls, since Christ said: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). We see this charity in the apostles after Pentecost, when they were “rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:41). This is also what made St. Paul say: “But I most gladly will spend and be spent myself for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15). (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, p.160).

A great spiritual writer, Father Grou, reminds us of the difficulties we experience in loving our neighbor. He says: “Yes, the love of our neighbor, in a true sense, is much more painful to nature than the love of God, although it is also true that these two loves cannot be separated. Thus our neighbor is the cause of almost all the faults with which devout people have to reproach themselves, and how many of these kind of faults do they commit without perceiving them, without having any idea of having done so, and which they would have a difficulty in acknowledging” (Manual For Interior Souls, p. 145).

Father Grou also suggests the means to overcome this difficulty: “But to attain to this [love of neighbor] it is clearly to be seen that we must continually renounce ourselves, and keep ourselves always in a state of dependence upon God, always united to Him by prayer, always attentive and faithful to His inspirations. The exact observance of the two great precepts of the law of the Gospel is undoubtedly worth all the trouble we may have to take in subjecting ourselves for that end to those teachings of the interior life which may be hard and painful to human nature” (Manual For Interior Souls, p. 146).

The love of neighbor should be a special object of our prayers, of our daily examination of conscience, and of our sacramental life. Only God can give us the grace we need to truly carry out this commandment of brotherly love.

CONCLUSION: One of the greatest obligations we have here on planet earth is to love our neighbor. The devil knows this and tempts us to disparage and dislike our neighbor. These temptations, nevertheless, are the “raw material” out of which we grow in holiness – precisely because they provide us with the opportunity to act virtuously, overcoming our repugnances and dislikes, by choosing to act charitably towards our neighbor.

“For love is a flower that grows in any soil, works its sweet miracles undaunted by autum frost or winter snow, blooming fair and fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give and those who receive” (Louisa May Alcott).

Indeed, this love is so powerful that it will transcend the seasons of this life, lasting throughout eternity, never ending as the Apostle tells us (1 Corinthians 13: 8,13), but forged first here on our earthly pilgrimage during this time of testing.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.


References: The idea for this post came from Father Grou’s observation that we can sometimes experience even great temptations against the love of neighbor (see p. 177 of the Manual For Interior Souls). From this point of Father Grou I came to a much more profound realization that I need to be on guard against such temptations. It is Father Faber who points out that our temptations are the raw materials out of which we make acts of virtue.

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(A statue of Saint John Paul II in Lichen, Poland)

“And when [the Holy Spirit comes], he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment.” (John 16:8) 

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!”(Romans 6: 1-2)

Part II of  Pope John Paul II’s magnificent encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dominum et Vivificantem, is entitled, “THE SPIRIT WHO CONVINCES THE WORLD CONCERNING SIN.  This portion of the encyclical touches upon a very ominous theme: the mystery of sin, iniquity and rebellion despite the “omnipresent” reality of the Holy Spirit who was sent as a special envoy to convince us of the all-important truth that Jesus is Lord and Savior of the world. The Spirit has been sent, the gift offered to all humanity, to awaken our hearts to conversion and repentance, but in the perversity of our selfish and sin-seeking wills we have the freedom to reject such a great salvation (encyclical, no. 38).

Indeed, as Saint John Paul II points out, man is tempted to “falsify” truth by the dark “opposition” of Satan and the “constant pressure on man to reject God….” (38). The Holy Spirit’s convincing about sin is thus rejected as a limitation of man’s own freedom. “In the depths of its divine-human mystery, conversion means the breaking of every fetter by which sin binds man to the whole of the mystery of iniquity. Those who are converted, therefore, are led by the Holy Spirit out of the range of the ‘judgment,’ and introduced into that righteousness which is Christ Jesus….”(48).

THUS, according to John Paul II, the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit “consists...in  refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the cross. If man rejects the ‘convincing concerning sin’ which comes from the Holy Spirit,” he is in essence rejecting the “redemptive power of Christ’s blood” (46). And this “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists precisely in the radical refusal to accept this forgiveness [of sin],” and correspondingly the person claims the right to “persist in evil” (46).

Although the Holy Spirit has been sent in power to convince the world about sin and judgment (John 16:8), and thus to conversion in the redemption of Jesus Christ, it is a baffling mystery that we can be so unreceptive to such an amazing gift. The doctor has prescribed the correct medicine, and yet for some reason we do not have the will to swallow it and be cured.

The “spirit of the world” is “unconversion” and “indifference” towards God. “The progress of spirituality,” says Father Faber, “is the growth of detachment from the world.” Detachment from “the world” is a process accomplished by prayer (which is, in essence, the desire for friendship with God). John Paul II mentions the need for prayer in the third part of his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, stating, “Our difficult age has a special need of prayer” (65).

Dear friend, be committed to prayer. Prayer will protect us from the hardening our hearts to the offer of such a great salvation. The Holy Spirit will help us to pray. Saint John Paul II, intercede for us that we may be always receptive to the
convincing of the Holy Spirit.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

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