(St. Thomas Aquinas)

“To respond to this invitation [to receive Holy Communion] we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment…. ‘Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.’ Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1385)

“The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)

Well before Amoris Laetitia, in November of 2013, Pope Francis released The Joy of the Gospel, an Apostolic Exhortation on evangelization. In The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis makes a brief reference to the Eucharist, and it just happens to contain his now famous Eucharistic maxim: –

“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” (The Joy of the Gospel, no.47)

The Pope footnotes Saint Ambrose for support of this quote and also Saint Cyril of Alexandria. When I first read this maxim of Pope Francis about the Eucharist in The Joy of the Gospel, I was a little stunned: I was thinking, wouldn’t it be prudent to clarify this somewhat unusual statement by mentioning what the Church infallibly teaches about receiving the Eucharist while in mortal sin (as in the quote from the Catechism at the very top of this note)? I can see now, in retrospect, the purpose Pope Francis apparently had in mind in selecting this maxim.

Now this identical Eucharistic maxim is also found in the Pope’s now infamous footnote 351 in Amoris Laetitia (“I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’.”). As you most likely know, there is now a furious debate going on in the Church as to whether footnote 351 permits, at least in certain mitigating circumstances, divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Holy Eucharist.

The purpose of this note is to simply demonstrate that Saint Thomas Aquinas clearly teaches that the Eucharist is not a spiritual medicine to heal those in mortal sin, but rather a medicine given to strengthen believers who are in a state of grace. In other words, the Eucharistic maxim of Pope Francis, to have validity, must be interpreted in light of the teaching of Saint Thomas, which is no doubt the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church (as seen, for example, in CCC 1385).

The clear teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas I am referring to occurs in Question 80, Article Four (Pt. III) of the Summa Theologica, which reads as follows as specifically pertaining to Objection 2 (which St. Thomas answers in Reply to Objection 2):

CONCLUSION: Pope Francis’ reference to the Eucharist as a “powerful medicine” for “the weak” must be understood in proper context. As Saint Thomas Aquinas clearly points out the Eucharist is not an appropriate medicine for those in mortal sin. Therefore, the appropriate way for a divorced and remarried Catholic to receive the Eucharist is by obtaining an anulment of his first marriage, or by living as brother and sister in the second marriage. Otherwise, a divorced and remarried Catholic should integrate into the Church in the manner allowed in Saint Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, wherein the Pope stated, without any ambiguity, that “the church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon sacred scripture, of not admitting to eucharistic communion divorced persons who have remarried” (no. 84).

Thomas Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

Image: “Detail from Valle Romita Polyptych by Gentile da Fabriano  (circa 1400)” at Wikipedia. Public Domain, U.S.A.

Note: For greater context, please refer to my previous post:


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“If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained. (20) (Encyclical Humanae Vitae)

The decisions we make in life have consequences (sometimes very profound consequences); and this is true of the decision we make in marriage whether to follow Church teaching in the area of family planning. I do not hesitate to say that many Catholic couples have not fully appreciated the profound ramifications of this decision.

A common theme in great spiritual books is that obedience (that is, the virtue of obedience) is very dear to God, and for that reason blessings flow from God when we practice humble, trusting obedience. When we apply this principle to Church teaching on contraception and family planning, we can confidently conclude that the practice of Natural Family Planning draws down blessings from God upon the married couple. It is hard to overemphasize the tremendous value great spiritual writers place on the virtue and practice of obedience. With this in mind we should take into consideration that the teaching in Humanae Vitae is the very touchstone of Catholic sexual morality – yet many in the Church chose not to follow it.

Catholic psychologist Gregory Popcak states:

“I’ll say it again. NFP is a wonderful gift, and if you don’t practice it you are missing out, big time. In fact, you cannot experience the fullness of your sexuality without it.” (p.32)

Popcak adds that the “Janus Report on Sexual Behavior (1993) demonstrates that couples who live out their faith have more satisfying sex lives because they ‘pay more attention to the mystic and symbolic dimensions of…sexuality’ ” (p. 204). If this is true, how much more does NFP conform to the important symbolic dimension of sexuality –  as a reflection of God’s own creative power –  by not rendering the act of intercourse infertile by an external and artificial act, but by by taking recourse to the natural periods of infertility in a woman’s cycle as ordained by God’s Wisdom?

The decision to practice NFP involves the eminent use of the virtue of chastity. And as C.S. Lewis observed in his classic, Mere Christianity, “those who are seriously attempting chastity are more conscious, and soon know a great deal more about their own sexuality than anyone else.” The attempt to bypass chastity by using artificial contraception is dangerous: it tends more and more to a view of sexual pleasure as an end in itself, the beloved partner potentially becoming more and more an object of gratification. Stacey Holgate comments:

Chastity is a virtue closely linked with the cardinal virtue of temperance. Possession of this virtue enables and necessitates the integration of man’s sexuality with his entire being: intellectual and spiritual. Chaste behavior leads to the self-possession necessary for self-donation, not only physically within marriage but also spiritually to God. Chastity is not achieved quickly nor is it attained easily. The ongoing pursuit of the virtue through grace and effort is in portion what makes its fruits so sweet” ( reference below).

The decision of newly married couples to ignore Church teaching and use artificial contraception is not a good one. In fact, it is not a decision which is beneficial to their marriage (I do not judge their subjective culpability). Who knows how many special graces they would have received had they been obedient to the Wisdom of the Church which comes from the Holy Spirit. Humanae Vitae was a prophetic document, and human sexuality is more and more in disarray because its teachings were
not heeded.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: For Better …Forever! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage by Gregory Popcak. The quote by Stacey Holgate is from her article “Marital Chastity and Natural Family Planning” which can be accessed via Google.

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“Consequently, [Jesus our High Priest in Heaven] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25)

In addition to John 3:16, Hebrews 7:25 is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible. If John 3:16 pertains, in particular, to Jesus’ Incarnation and Passion, Hebrews 7:25 pertains to Jesus’ ongoing priestly ministry in Heaven. Hebrews 7:25 shows that Jesus “exercises an ongoing priestly ministry in Heaven, where he intercedes for the saints at the Father’s right hand” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible). And the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (at 519):

All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.” Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to his death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”. He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25). He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us” (Hebrews 9:25).

Hebrews 7:25 tells us very clearly that Jesus, in Heaven, is mightily at work for our good – that, in fact, he always lives to make intercession for us.” Now if the realization that Jesus always lives to make intercession for you doesn’t fill your heart with great encouragement, I’m not sure what will! Moreover, the verse also states that Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him.” Not only does Jesus have the power to save you, but he has the power to save you to the uttermost if you draw near to him. Dearest God, these are powerful words from your Holy Spirit!

Now when you visualize Jesus in your heart during prayer, you can see him there in Heaven living his priestly life to constantly intercede for you. This realization will fill your heart with strength, gratitude and fortitude, increasing your confidence in the prayers you make, and increasing also your love for Jesus. And nothing is more important than drawing close to Jesus in love so that he may save you to the uttermost.

I encourage you to meditate on Hebrews 7:25. Dear friend, Jesus always lives to make intercession for you!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Note: For a discussion on how Hebrews 7:25 pertains to Mass, see my previous post, The Mass is the Ever-Living Prayer of Jesus Ascended into Heaven, via this link:

The Mass and the Order of Melchizedek | Catholic Strength

Reference: See Catechism of An Interior Life by the great Father Olier, pertaining to the application of Hebrews 7:25 to interior prayer (Part II), a very valuable reflection.

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(Mass at the Grotto in Lourdes)

“For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast….” (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Saint John Paul II penned the following words of incredible importance:

The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life”. “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to men”. Consequently the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love (Section 1).

Given the magnitude of the Pope’s words, as cited above, we can see why Catholics are under a grave obligation to attend Sunday Mass and other holy days of obligation (although, ideally, it might be hoped that we had a burning desire to receive the Holy Eucharist!). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, at 2181, states:

The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” (emphasis added).

We simply cannot be lukewarm about the Eucharist because the Eucharist is the great sacramental sign of our covenantal relationship with Jesus. The phrase “new covenant” is mentioned by Jesus only in the context of the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, where Jesus said: “This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). Now, as Dr. Scott Hahn points out, with a Biblical covenant come blessings or curses: – blessings if we are faithful to the covenant, and curses if we are not. In Hebrews we see that it is a fearful thing to neglect attending the Eucharistic assembly.

In Hebrews at 10:19 it states that “by the blood of Jesus” we “have confidence to enter the sanctuary.” We have this great blessing then, merited by our Covenant Mediator, Jesus Christ (which those in the Old Covenant did not have), to participate in the Eucharistic liturgy whereby through the sacrificial offering of Jesus’ body and blood we can truly access  the “marriage supper of the Lamb” in Heaven (see Rev. 19:9 and commentary to Hebrews 10 in Ignatius Catholic Study Bible). Thus, given the magnitude of this blessing, the author of Hebrews admonishes his readers “not [to neglect] to meet together” for the Sunday assembly (Hebrews 10:25). He adds: “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment….” (Hebrews 10:26). Dr Hahn comments on these verses:

“People who don’t meet together on the Lord’s day are repudiating the only sacrifice that will work for their sins. The sinning deliberately refers to deliberately sinning by not going to Mass. We don’t know anybody who has committed that sin, do we? All American Catholics go to Mass every week. It hasn’t become the habit of some Catholics not to go to the Eucharist, has it? God help us if we don’t attend weekly liturgy as has become the habit of some. We’re sinning against the most beautiful laws that God has delivered to humanity, that there is a once and for all powerful sacrifice, God be praised! And we renew that sacrifice every time we draw near to the Eucharistic banquet.”  (See link below and CCC 2178)

I close, then, with these words of our beloved Saint Pope John Paul II:

The saving efficacy of the sacrifice is fully realized when the Lord’s body and blood are received in communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion; we receive the very One who offered himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the Cross and his blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). We are reminded of his words: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6:57). Jesus himself reassures us that this union, which he compares to that of the life of the Trinity, is truly realized. The Eucharist is a true banquet, in which Christ offers himself as our nourishment. When for the first time Jesus spoke of this food, his listeners were astonished and bewildered, which forced the Master to emphasize the objective truth of his words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you” (Jn 6:53). This is no metaphorical food: “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6:55) (Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 16).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: A photograph of a Mass at Lourdes taken by Lima at English Wikipedia on July 28, 2006. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version.

References: I am relying heavily and primarily on Scott Hahn materials for this note including his book, The Lamb’s Supper (Doubleday). The quote from Dr. Hahn is from Eucharist, Holy Meal. See also Ignatius Catholic Study Bible on Hebrews, Chapter 10, commentary notes. It was Father Faber who cautioned that Catholics cannot be tepid about the Holy Eucharist.

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“The minutes that follow Communion are the most precious we have in our lives.” (Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi)

“There is no prayer more agreeable to God, or more profitable to the soul than that which is made during the thanksgiving after Communion.” (Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri)

In his Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, Pope Benedict XVI mentions the crucial importance of making an adequate thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion. He states:

“Furthermore, the precious time of thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected: besides the singing of an appropriate hymn, it can also be most helpful to remain recollected in silence” (#50).

Further on in Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI urges Catholics to “rediscover the Eucharistic form which their lives are meant to have, thus “making our lives a constant self-offering to God….” (#72). The practice of making a proper and meaningful thanksgiving after receiving the Holy Eucharist is one way to rediscover our Eucharistic form. Spending a few minutes after Mass in thanksgiving (in addition to our thanksgiving directly after receiving Holy Communion) is one way to accomplish this goal.

How important is our thanksgiving after Holy Communion to our growth in holiness? In his masterful treatise on the spiritual life, the great Father Garrigou-LaGrange (professor of Saint Pope John Paul II) devotes nearly six full pages to discuss the critical importance of making an adequate and meaningful thanksgiving after Holy Communion (see Chapter 32 of The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol. I). And Father Muller devotes an entire chapter to the subject in his book on the Eucharist (The Blessed Eucharist, Chapter Seven). Listen to Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s advice:

“A number of interior souls have told us of the sorrow they feel when they see, in certain places, almost the entire body of the faithful leave the church immediately after the end of the Mass during which they have received Holy Communion. Moreover, this custom is becoming general, even in many Catholic boarding schools and colleges where formerly the students who had received Communion remained in the chapel for about ten minutes after Mass, thus acquiring the habit of making a thanksgiving, a habit which the best among them kept all their lives.”

A few lines later Father Garrigou-LaGrange then says:

“In Communion we receive a gift far superior to the miraculous cure of a physical disease; we receive the Author of salvation and an increase of the life of grace, which is the seed of glory, or eternal life begun. We receive an increase of charity, the highest of the virtues, which vivifies, animates all the others, and is the very principle of merit.

Christ often gave thanks to His Father for all His benefits, in particular for that of the redemptive Incarnation; with all His soul He thanked His Father for having revealed its mystery to little ones. On the cross He thanked Him while uttering His Consummatum est. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, of which He is the principal Priest, He does not cease to thank Him. Thanksgiving is one of the four ends of the sacrifice, always united to adoration, petition, and reparation. Even after the end of the world, when the last Mass has been said and when there will no longer be any sacrifice, properly so called, but only its consummation, when supplication and reparation have ceased, the worship of adoration and thanksgiving will endure forever, expressed in the Sanctus, which will be the song of the elect for all eternity.

With these thoughts in mind, we can easily understand why for some time many interior souls have been having Masses offered in thanksgiving, particularly on the second Friday of the month, in order to make up for the ingratitude of men and of many Christians, who scarcely know any more how to give thanks, even after receiving the greatest benefits.”

These words of Father Garrigou-LaGrange may seem a bit harsh, but I am hoping that, as they have for me, they will encourage you  to spend a few minutes after Mass with our Lord thanking Him for having blessed you with the greatest of all possible gifts. Naturally, if you have small children, the duty of the present moment (as Mass ends) is to tend to their needs. However, I have seen families kneel together after Mass for a few minutes of thanksgiving. Moreover, you can attempt to stay recollected in a mode of thanksgiving even while leaving Mass and attending to external circumstances. Christian culture is rapidly disintegrating; it will be a special challenge for our children and grandchildren to maintain their Catholic faith without a deep appreciation for the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is our foretaste of Eternal Life.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. The two quotes at the top of this note are from the Wikipedia article on “Thanksgiving after Communion,” which is quite beneficial. The great Father Lallemant adds in his The Spiritual Doctrine a crucial consideration, saying: do not “shorten the time allotted to the thanksgiving, which, well made, may repair much that is defective in our penances” (p.88).

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(“Manresa, Chapel in the Cave of St. Ignatius where Ignatius practiced asceticism and conceived his Spiritual Exercises in 1522″)

“There is nothing of which apostolic men have more need than interior recollection” (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, “composed between 1522–1524, are a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises, written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th-century Spanish priest, theologian, and founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Divided into four thematic “weeks” of variable length, they are designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days. They were composed with the intention of helping participants in religious retreats to discern the will of God in their lives, leading to a personal commitment to follow Jesus whatever the cost” (from Wikipedia).

Father Hardon mentions that the “spiritual efficacy” of the Spiritual Exercises is “sometimes nearly miraculous” and that the “marvelous results they produce” has touched the lives of thousands of people. Saint Ignatius described his Spiritual Exercises as a “method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of vocal and mental prayer prayer, and of other spiritual activities.” He says “they are a way of preparing and disposing a soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the dispositions of our life for the salvation of our soul.” Clearly, there is great value in making an “Ignatian retreat” utilizing the Saint’s Spiritual Exercises.

St. Ignatius realized that our attachment to created things often is like a great weight around our necks which impedes our love of God and our progress in the spiritual life. Here in these three foundational principles of the Exercises he instructs us in the correct use of things so that they are used for the glory of God and to advance our salvation. The young rich man in the Gospel must have had a lot of possessions, for when the Lord Jesus bid to him, “Come follow me,” he looked back at all of his possessions and this mountain of things captivated his heart and he walked away – at least at that moment –  from the Lord of Life who was offering him infinite happiness.

The foundational principles of the Spiritual Exercises, comments Father Hardon, “is a compendium of Christian spirituality. It is the principle of faith from which everything in Christianity finally derives. It is the foundation of morality on which everything in our lives finally depends.” Here, then, in question form, are the three foundational principles of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises

 1. Why were we created?

“The human person is created to praise, reverence and serve God, and by so doing to save his or her soul.”  (#23 of The Spiritual Exercises)

 Comment: One of the main values of the Exercises is to get us to seriously contemplate what is of truly lasting value, and what is fleeting, transient and passing – and to order our lives accordingly. In this context, “he who has God (truly) has everything” (St. Teresa of Avila). Ultimately, our preference for God over things leads us to more strongly value things in relationship to God’s glory and the salvation of souls.

2. Why were other things created?

“The other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created. It follows from this that one must use other created things in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end.”  ( #23 of The Spiritual Exercises)

Comment: This is one of the most important principles for our spiritual lives. To protect ourselves from the malignant threat of worldliness, we use created things to serve God and to reach Heaven – if not, they have little value and will have the tendency to draw our thoughts away from God. As an example, are we using our media devices to promote God’s glory? Do the shows or movies we watch tend to this end? God made things and other creatures to lead us to Heaven. Of course, appropriate and reasonable recreation is not opposed to this end.

3. How do we train our wills to use things and circumstances for God’s glory?

“We need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things…but we should desire and choose only what helps us more toward the end for which we are created.”  (#23 of The Spiritual Exercises)

Comment: This is the famous Ignatian principle of indifference (of being dispassionate about what happens to us as long as it is for the glory of God). It is a foundational principle of The Spiritual Exercises. Since the battle for our souls is won in the mind, Ignatius is training us to think with apostolic wisdom and fortitude, namely, to train our pattern of thinking to be “indifferent to all created things.” This principle is not always easy to grasp, but I will try to explain it in the following manner (relying heavily on Father Hardon’s book, Retreat With the Lord, and an essay by Karl Rahner, S.J.):

     1. Because of our fallen nature we have very strong attachments to persons and things that are not necessarily conducive to our salvation.

     2. The main purpose of our life is to know, love and serve God and thus to attain eternal life: next to this goal everything else amounts to practically nothing (unless it is used in service of this goal).

     3. People on earth tend to act in this manner: they are indifferent to God and very attentive to creatures and things. Ignatius advises that this situation should be exactly the opposite: we should be very attentive to God and indifferent to all created things except to the extent that these created things help us to serve and give glory to God. Thus, detachment from and mortification of our inordinate desire for earthly things is necessary. Therefore, we should make use of created things only insofar as they help us to attain our eternal destiny.

     4. Thus, the main purpose of created things is to help us reach heaven. To the extent created things hinder me from reaching my eternal destiny, they are to be discarded. Everything in our lives is to be brought under the Lordship of Christ.

     5. And yet this principle of indifference goes deeper. If we are to develop apostolic strength of mind, and thus avoid or minimize disabling anxiety, we need to become indifferent to what happens to us – provided we are trying to accomplish the will of God and lead a holy life. Thus, as an extreme example, if you were kidnapped tomorrow and forced to live in a small dungeon away from your loved ones, you would accept this unfortunate turn of events as God’s will and do your best under the circumstances. This state of mind trains us to understand that nothing happens to us except by God’s permission. He knows every hair on our heads. If misfortune comes, despite our good efforts, we are to accept it as God’s will and to make the best of the circumstances. This apostolic strength of mind makes us less hostile to the crosses that God will call us to carry –  as we will see them as part of His amazing plan for our salvation. Developing this state of mind leads to peace of soul under trying circumstances. Ignatius is basically teaching us to trust God no matter what happens because we are always under the Father’s providential care. Boldly ask the Holy Spirit for apostolic strength of mind. This is the type of strength St. Maximilian Kolbe demonstrated when he ministered the gospel at the Auschwitz extermination camp – he having achieved such a high degree of apostolic strength of mind that he even volunteered to take the place of a man who had been sentenced to death by starvation. Kolbe was placed in a small cell to endure the slow and painful death of starvation. We do not become dispassionate stoics, but rather we seek God’s will whether in pain or pleasure, health or sickness, success or failure, etc.,  knowing that whatever God allows to happen to us is ultimately, in His mysterious providence, for our ultimate welfare.

     6. This indifference does not make us “aloof to the world,” but reaffirms the fact that all of history is rooted in the “eschatological goal of salvation.”

I hope this may be of some help to you, since this principle of indifference is a foundational principle of Ignatian spirituality. It helps us to order our lives for the glory of God and is of immense value when strong winds or even hurricanes come into our lives.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Photo above of the Chapel in the Cave of St. Ignatius by PMRMaeyaert under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Spain license. This photo is indexed in the Spanish heritage register. Photo at Wikipedia.

References:  I am relying on Father Hardon’s book, Retreat With The Lord (Servant Publications) which is a self-guided way to make an Ignatian retreat, especially if you simply don’t have the time to make a formal one (although Fr. Hardon recommends you have a qualified spiritual director, if only by way of phone). Another similar book is A Do-It-At-Home-Retreat by Father Andre Ravier, S.J. (Ignatius Press). I found both book very valuable but you would certainly want a spiritual director if you are trying to discern a major change or decision in your life. I think it is clear that where Ignatius uses the word indifference other spiritual writers use the word detachment. The quotes in the second paragraph are taken from Father Hardon’s retreat book.

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(John 13:23: “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved”)

The Creator is the creature’s home. Neither spirit of  angel nor soul of man can rest short of God. They can anchor nowhere save in the capacious harbor of HIS Infinite perfections. All things teach us this beautiful truth. All things that find us wandering lead us home again to the Bosom of the Eternal Father…. God is our Last End as well as our First Cause. O that the day were come when we shall be securely at His Feet forever!”  (F.W. Faber, The Creator and the Creature, p.343).

If you have read Father Michael Gaitley’s well-regarded book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, then you are keenly aware that Father Gailtley emphasizes in that book a special mode of love which involves consoling Jesus and sharing in His sorrow. This mode of love is called by Saint Francis de Sales the love of condolence. There are other ways in which we express our personal love for God, and this note explores one of those ways, namely, what Saint Francis de Sales calls the love of complacency (what I have called resting in God). With the love of complacency we are simply content, as Saint Francis tells us, “to be with the beloved.”     

Psalm 23 seems to be an invitation to rest in God. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastureshe leads me beside still watersHe restores my soul.”

When is the last time you rested in God the Father’s love? When is the last time you sat, so to speak, on His lap (to use an image from Saint Therese of Lisieux she drew from Isaiah 66:12) just soaking in His eternal love for you? It is in the Father’s Heart that we find green pastures and still waters: it is in Him that we renew our soul. God is the Eternally Good Shepherd.

Like me, you’ve probably prayed the Our Father a gazillion times, but have you ever stopped just for a moment to rest in the wonderful truth that God really is your Father? He made you. He has known and loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3); and He loves you with the full might of a God Who Is Love (1 John 4:8). We are truly His children (1 John 3:2).  Amazing, but true!

It is a breakthrough in the spiritual journey, as Father Faber points out, when we first begin to allow ourselves to be loved by God. God is Infinite love. We sometimes run from Him, or fear that we are not worthy of His love. But since He allows us to call Him Father, we can rest assured that He loves us with an “indescribable” love. As Saint Augustine said, “God made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” Jesus has brought us home to the Father.

Saint Francis de Sales calls this resting in God the love of complacency. Since God is Infinite Goodness and Infinite Love, our true rest and delight is in Him. Father Faber defines the love of complacency as “being content with God. It not only wants nothing more, but it only wants Him as He is….Complacency fixes its eyes upon what it knows of God with intense delight and with intense tranquility. It rejoices that HE is what HE is. It tells Him so. It tells [Him so] over and over again. Whole hours of prayer pass, and it has done nothing else but tell Him this” (p.183).

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Saint Francis de Sales says, “He is the God of our heart by this complacency, since by it our heart embraces Him and makes Him its own: He is our inheritance, because by this act we enjoy the goods which are in God, and, as from an inheritance, we draw from it all the pleasure and content: by means of this complacency we spiritually drink and eat the perfections of the Divinity, for we make them our own and draw them into our hearts” (Chapter 5). “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Saint Paul exclaims at Romans 11:33,36 (TLB translation):

“Oh, What a wonderful God we have! How great are His wisdom and knowledge and riches!  For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by His power, and everything is for His glory. To Him be glory evermore.”

And at Philippians 4:4 (AMP translation) Paul tells us to renew ourselves in God. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always – delight, gladden yourselves in Him –  again I say, Rejoice!”

Prayer is an invitation to rest in God. In prayer, God allows us to take refuge in His “incomprehensible goodness”. And if it is true what the spiritual writers say, that we become more and more like that which we love, what a thought!: to become more like God!  What joy we will experience resting in the “incredible sweetness” of God the Father’s love for us! When we rest in Him, will we not be tempted to say, like the King  in The Song of Songs“How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are” (1:15).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

SourcesSaint Francis De Sales, Treatise on the Love of God; F.W. Faber, The Creator and the Creature; Beverly Courrege, Because of the Cross. Saint Therese of Lisieux saw in Isaiah 66:12 an invitation for a little child to be rocked upon the lap of God (see The Way of Trust and Love, Page 10, by Father Jacques Philippe).

Key idea: Methods used by the saints to increase their love of God. The method discussed here is the love of complacency. We should remember that God dwells within our baptized souls as long as we are in sanctifying grace.

Image: Damiane. “Jesus Christ and St. John the Apostle”. A detail of the Last Supper fresco from Ubisi, Georgia. 14th century. At Wikipedia. Public Domain, U.S.A.

Book Recommendations: A short and instructive book on interior prayer is Time for God by Father Jacques Philippe.

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Both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record the miraculous feeding by Jesus of the 5000, and then later, the 4000. These separate miraculous feedings have profound significance regarding the international dimensions of Jesus’ Kingdom.

The feeding of the 5000 is to Israelites living within the Promised Land. Thus, there are 12 baskets of leftover food symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. The Gospel is taken first to the chosen people. See Matt. 14: 13-21 and Mark 6:32-34.
The feeding of the 4000 is to Gentiles living outside the promised land (in the Decapolis; see Mark 7:31). Thus, there are 7 baskets of leftover food representing the seven Gentile nations that once occupied the land of Canaan. 
The significance of these two miraculous feedings is clear: the Kingdom established by Jesus is catholic – that is to say, universal, international, for all peoples, for all nations. 

In-between the two miraculous feedings of the 5000, and then the 4000, Jesus healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. She is the Gentile woman who told Jesus, “Yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28). Thus we see that “Israel’s leftover bread will be given to the Gentiles” (Ignatius Catholic Bible Study, page 79).

Jesus himself summarized the subtle meaning of the two miraculous feedings, saying to the Apostles:

“When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied.”And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:19-21).

To conclude, “All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one. . . . The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 831; LG 13).

Yes, indeed, we are called to evangelize – to share the Bread of Life with all people. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst’ ” (John 6:35).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Reference: I am relying completely on Scott Hahn’s audio Bible study of The Gospel of Mark available from Saint Joseph Communications (refer to the second CD). I have merely tried to summarize in a concise manner these points made by Dr. Hahn. See also The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible on The Gospel of Mark. Note: as is well known, these miraculous feedings included the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

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“And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.” (James 1:4)

Patience is a huge – indeed critical – virtue in the spiritual life and for life in general. Consider St. Paul’s description of the many characteristics of love – the first thing he says about love is that it is patient, and the next thing he says is that it is kind (1. Cor. 13:4). Dear God, give me the grace to be patient and kind and I certainly will grow in charity!

Here, then, by the practice of patience, is a simple yet profound way to grow in holiness. To be sure, growth in holiness means, as already mentioned, growth in the love of God and neighbor. All the virtues, including patience, are directed to the fulfillment of Christ’s law of charity. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Galatians 5:14).

So this simple method to grow in holiness is nothing more (or less) than the exercise of patience under adversity for the love of God. Virtue is tested by the people and circumstances of our day to day life. When, for the love of God, we meet these challenges and adversities with patience and meekness, we grow in holiness and sanctifying grace increases within us (see CCC 1266,which explains that the supernatural virtues – including patience –  are given to us in the sanctifying grace of baptism, and nos. 2010-2011 pertaining to the increase of sanctifying grace by way of meritorious acts).

The motive for our patience (which is truly a mortification of our self-will) is the love of God, and, secondarily, the love of neighbor. It is this “purity of intention,” as the theologians say, which makes the act of being patient supernaturally meritorious, thus causing sanctifying grace to grow within us, which, as Father Garrigou-LaGrange frequently mentions, can continually increase inasmuch as the precept of the love of God has no limits!

Patience is a power – a supernatural virtue sustained by sanctifying grace. Patience is an exercise of the cardinal virtue of fortitude. “Patience, says St. Thomas, is a virtue attached to the virtue of fortitude, which hinders a man from departing from right reason illumined by faith by yielding to difficulties and to sadness. It makes him bear the evils of life with equanimity of soul, says St. Augustine, without allowing himself to be troubled by vexations. The impatient man, no matter how violent he may be, is a weak man; when he raises his voice and murmurs, he really succumbs from the moral point of view. The patient man, on the contrary, puts up with an inevitable evil in order to remain on the right road, to continue his ascent toward God. Those who bear adversity that they may attain what their pride desires, have not the virtue of patience but only its counterfeit, hardness of heart” (from The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume II, Chapter 10).

Now, my friend, get this! The great theologian and Dominican, Father Garrigou-LaGrange, from whom I am drawing the material for this note, specifically states that among one of the three important signs of predestination (there are more than three) patience in adversity for the love of God is one of them. He states:“Therefore, as a rule, among the signs of predestination are…patience in adversity for the love of God (he names love of the poor and love of enemies as two other such signs)”. See The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume II, p.395, which, in context, is dealing with the passive purification of the spirit.

Your sure path to holiness and Heaven is patience and meekness under adversity, done for the motive of loving God and neighbor. Father Garrigou-LaGrange mentions that the devil often tempts us to anger, so we should not be surprised if this happens as we try to practice the great virtue of patience. “Love is patient and kind…love bears all things….” (1 Cor. 13:4,23). The corresponding virtue of meekness, says Father Garrigou LaGrange, curbs anger and bitterness. When you feel anger, allow meekness to descend into your anger.

To accomplish this goal of patience under adversity, we will need constant recourse to prayer and fervent reception of the sacraments. The practice of examining our conscience at the end of the day (to mark our progress) is also  valuable.  In the Eucharist, Jesus shares his life and virtues with us. When we receive Holy Communion, we should specifically ask Jesus to help us grow in patience and meekness.

Remember, “In your patience you shall possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Pray for the grace to grow in the all- important virtue of patience.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Reference: I am basing this note entirely on The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Father Garrigou-Lagrange. All of my thoughts proceed from this amazing work! Father Faber has an excellent chapter on patience in his Growth in Holiness book, wherein he shows that patience is the “rule” for those of us living in the world. Note that the word “patient” in James 1:4 is also translated as endurance or steadfastness, or one might say, “patient endurance.” According to Father Garrigou-Lagrange, patience is united to fortitude, whereas meekness is united to temperance. The natural virtue of patience, which may be carried out purely for pragmatic reasons, must be contrasted with the supernatural virtue of patience, done for the love of God and neighbor by reason of sanctifying grace (see CCC 1804-1811).

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