Month: November 2015

A REFLECTION ON THE POWER OF KIND WORDS

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“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)

“The worst kinds of unhappiness, as well as the greatest amount of it,” says Father Faber, “come from our conduct to each other.” Thus, he says, “if our conduct…were under the control of kindness,” we would live in a vastly happier world.

I have a little note I taped to the top rim of my computer screen which says, KINDNESS/POWER, but I have to admit that kind words do not always come out of my mouth when someone interrupts me while I’m zoned in on the internet world. Kindness is a huge virtue in the spiritual life, and one we need to put into practice more and more.

Father Faber mentions that kindness is a “considerable power.” He says that it is kindness that “makes life more endurable,” and which has the power to “make life’s capabilities blossom.” Faber says that “kindness is the overflowing of self upon others. We put others in the place of self. We treat them as we should wish to be treated ourselves.” Faber adds that “kindness adds sweetness to everything.”

The purpose of this short note is to suggest that kind words are a considerable power we have at our disposal. In fact, Faber says that kindness is “an immense power.” Grace-filled kindness is so powerful that this virtue can ripen into a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). A fruit of the Holy Spirit, which involves a certain perfection of a supernatural virtue, is an enormous power. We should therefore pray to the Holy Spirit for an increase of the virtue of kindness.

Faber says that “kindness seems to know of some secret fountain of joy deep in the soul” and that it offers us a “peculiar participation in the spirit of Jesus.” He says that “men do not sufficiently understand” the “value” of kindness. “The interior beauty of a soul through habitual kindliness of thought is greater than our world can tell.”

Father Faber says there is “hardly a power on earth equal to” kind words. He further points out that there are so many “fortunate opportunities” to be kind. When you think about it, the opportunity for great heroism may never come our way, but we can say kind things all day long! And what do kind words cost us? Virtually nothing! But what is lost if we fail to speak kindly? As Faber points out, kind words are not only remedial, helping those in need of encouragement, they actually produce happiness. He says, “how often have we ourselves been made happy by kind words.” It “would be worth going through fire and water to acquire the right and to find the opportunity of saying kind words.”

Faber says that “not only is kindness due everyone, but a special kindness is due everyone.” And “is there any happiness in the world like the happiness of the disposition made happy by the happiness of others?,” Faber asks. “There is no joy to be compared with it.” “Kindness is the turf of the spiritual world, whereon the sheep of Christ feed quietly beneath the Shepherd’s eye.”

Let us make a resolution, then, to be an “apostolate of kindness.” Let us reflect on what a great virtue kindness is, and what power it has to bring sunshine and happiness where there is gloom and discouragement. And through kind words the “bruised reed” will not be broken, and the “flickering candle” will not be extinguished (see Matt. 12:20), and we will see that “our neighbor is our refuge” and self “the demon foe” (George MacDonald).

I spoke a word of praise today – 
One I had no need to say – 
I spoke a word of praise to one,
Commending some small service done;
And in return, to my surprise,
I reaped rewards of mountain size.
Such a look of pleasure shone 
Upon his face – I’ll never own 
A gift more beautiful to see
Than that swift smile he gave to me.
I spoke one little word of praise, 
And  sunshine fell on both our ways.   
(from The Gift of Wonder by renowned poet Helen Lowrie Marshall)

 

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. As you can see, I am relying almost completely on Father Faber’s famous essay, “Kindness,” in his book, Spiritual Conferences (TAN). Although a long essay it is well worth reading and meditating on. Faber’s point that a special kindness is due to everyone, if taken to heart, has the power to increase our personal holiness. One word of caution: kindness and praise must be sincere and genuine. A false kindness, a calculated kindness, is easily detected. That is why we should pray to the Holy Spirit for the supernatural growth of the virtue of kindness.

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THE VIRGIN MARY WAS NEVER AN UNWED MOTHER

 “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35)

     From time to time a Catholic speaker may make the innocent mistake of referring to Mary as an unwed mother. However, it is abundantly clear that the Virgin Mary was legally married to Joseph at the time she conceived Jesus (when the Annunciation took place). Thus, the Gospel of Matthew refers to Joseph as Mary’s “husband” at 1:19, and additionally the angel sent to Joseph calls Mary Joseph’s “wife” at 1:20 (as Joseph considered whether to divorce Mary). Again, at verse 1:24, Mary is called Joseph’s “wife.”
     It is true that Saint Luke refers to Mary’s betrothal to Joseph at Luke 1:26, but as Dr. Scott Hahn points out in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Mary’s “betrothal to Joseph was already a legally binding marriage.” This is why Joseph could not simply walk away from Mary without first getting a divorce, and because Joseph and Mary were legally married “such a betrothal could only be terminated by death or divorce [according to] Deut. 24: 1-4” (The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study, The Gospel of Matthew, page 18).
     In his Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer, Pope Saint John Paul II makes clear that at the time of Mary’s Annunciation Joseph and Mary were married. The Pope stated:

“Addressing Joseph through the words of the angel, God speaks to him as the husband of the Virgin of Nazareth. What took place in her through the power of the Holy Spirit also confirmed in a special way the marriage bond which already existed between Joseph and Mary. God’s messenger was clear in what he said to Joseph: “Do not fear to take Mary your wife into your home.” Hence, what had taken place earlier, namely, Joseph’s marriage to Mary, happened in accord with God’s will and was meant to endure. In her divine motherhood Mary had to continue to live as “a virgin, the wife of her husband” (cf. Lk 1:27).” (no. 18)

The Virgin Mary was never an unwed mother. It is entirely incorrect to suggest that God planned it otherwise.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Image: painting of Juan Simon Guiterrez, “Holy Family,” at Wikipedia, Public Domain, U.S.A.

 

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THREE ESSENTIAL PRACTICES THAT PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN CATHOLIC MARRIAGES

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 “At a moment in history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God.” (Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio of Saint Pope John Paul II, 3)

    In The Catholic Family in the Modern World  the saintly priest, Father John Hardon, specifically warns married Catholics that the de-Christianization of society harms families and thus – by implication –  threatens your own marriage! (see Introduction). And I know there is nothing more important to you than God and your God-centerd marriage. If you have a strong Catholic marriage are you ready for the trials and spiritual warfare that are sure to come? And if your marriage is experiencing rocky times, what positive action can you take to rebuild it and save it from disaster?  We men cannot afford to be passive, like Adam, who stood silently next to Eve as the infernal serpent attacked his wife (see Genesis 3: 6). Thus, the great Father Hardon, relying heavily on Saint Pope John Paul II, tells us that three things are absolutlely necessary to protect, fortify and strengthen our marriages, and these three essential practices are: PRAYER, the EUCHARIST and THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION. We consider these three indispensable practices below, relying on Father Hardon.
   
1.  PRAYER

     Perseverance in marital love, says Father Hardon, “is impossible without God’s grace.” He continues: “And what is the primary source of grace that we always have at our disposal? It is prayer. No matter how badly off a marriage may be, no matter how tragic a once flourishing family may become, the one indispensable condition, either for restoring married love…or for growth in marital charity, is prayer. Why? Because part of the divine plan, which is what providence means, is that we should obtain many of the things we need only by asking God to grant them.” Thus, “we have no choice; either we pray or we do not get the divine light and strength we need. Either husbands and wives pray or they will not receive the grace to even sustain their married love.” The “most fundamental reason for failure [in marriage] is lack of prayer” (45-46).

Practical Consideration: Am I praying on a regular and sustained basis for my spouse and for my marriage and for the virtues I need to grow in holiness?


2. THE EUCHARIST: THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE


     Father Hardon states: “According to Pope John Paul II, ‘The Eucharist is the very source of Christian marriage.’ What can he possibly mean? He means that except for the Holy Eucharist as Sacrifice, as Holy Communion, and as Real Presence, Christian marriage would not survive. Why not? Because the heart of Christian marriage is the practice of Christian charity, but Christian charity is a bad dream unless sustained and nourished and enlightened and protected by the constant flux of supernatural grace whose principal divinely instituted source is the Holy Eucharist….Believing married people must be devoted to the Holy Eucharist if they want their marriage even to survive, let alone to thrive. This is not piety. It is a factual reality” (47-48).

Practical Consideration: Do I have a strong desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist? Do I realize how much I need sacramental union with Jesus in order to grow in charity? Do I try to attend mass frequently? Do I adore Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration on a regular – preferably weekly – basis? Do I know what the practice of spiritual communion is?


3. SACRAMENTAL CONFESSION STRENGTHENS MARRIAGES


     According to Father Hardon, the Sacrament of Confession, “the sacrament of peace,” is “necessary to restore peace to families” broken by sin and conflict. The repentance and forgiveness that are basic to the Sacrament of Penance heal families and restore family unity. In this regard Father Hardon quotes from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the family,
Familiaris Consortio (Section 58), quoted below:

The Sacrament of Conversion and Reconciliation

58. An essential and permanent part of the Christian family’s sanctifying role consists in accepting the call to conversion that the Gospel addresses to all Christians, who do not always remain faithful to the “newness” of the Baptism that constitutes them “saints.” The Christian family too is sometimes unfaithful to the law of baptismal grace and holiness proclaimed anew in the sacrament of marriage. Repentance and mutual pardon within the bosom of the Christian family, so much a part of daily life, receive their specific sacramental expression in Christian Penance. In the Encyclical Humanae vitae, Paul VI wrote of married couples: “And if sin should still keep its hold over them, let them not be discouraged, but rather have recourse with humble perseverance to the mercy of God, which is abundantly poured forth in the sacrament of Penance.” The celebration of this sacrament acquires special significance for family life. While they discover in faith that sin contradicts not only the covenant with God, but also the covenant between husband and wife and the communion of the family, the married couple and the other members of the family are led to an encounter with God, who is “rich in mercy,” who bestows on them His love which is more powerful than sin, and who reconstructs and brings to perfection the marriage covenant and the family communion.

Practical Consideration: Do you, your spouse and your children utilize this great sacrament of peace on at least a monthly basis so as to draw from this sacrament the forgiveness, healing and strength your family needs? Do you, as the father of the family, specifically set aside family time for the whole family to attend Confession together, and then perhaps to go out together afterwards for some family fun and bonding?


Tom Mulcahy, M.A.




Ref.  See the referenced text of Father Hardon for a more detailed explanation of these three practices. Some of the quoted material was slightly edited for this note.

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THE FORGIVENESS EQUATION

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“He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God”
(Saint Faustina Kowalska, Diary 390)
 
 
       It’s in your own best interest to forgive. If you’re hanging on to unforgiveness, it’s in your own best interest to let go! You don’t want to forfeit graces God wants to give you because of a refusal to forgive. God’s will is quite clear here: – even though it can be quite difficult, we must forgive. Indeed, a plethora of New Testament passages, set forth below, speak to a spiritual law of the Gospel that, in essence, impedes us from seeking the Father’s mercy if we are unable to extend mercy to those who have harmed us.
 
 
            Luke 6:37…………………..Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
 
             Matthew 6:12……………. “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.”
 
             Matthew 6:14-15……….. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
 
            Mark 11:25…………………..”And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
 
           Ephesians 4:32……………”Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
 
          Colossians 3:13…………..”Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
 
           Matthew 18:21-22……….”Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
 
 
      The Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoing the scripture passages cited above, talks about how hardened, unforgiving hearts can cut-off the outpouring of mercy. The Catechism – almost getting a little emotional – talks of this situation as being “daunting.” These important words are from Section 2840 of the CCC:
 
             2840 Now – and this is daunting – this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.
 
      Conversely, the floodgates of grace open up when we honor God’s will and courageously choose to forgive. In Life Everlasting, Father Garrigou-Lagrange, the great Dominican and mystical theologian (who once taught the future Pope John Paul II), tells us of the amazing transformation of a Jewish man he personally knew who had the courage to forgive. He relates:
 
“I knew a young Jew, the son of an Austrian banker, in Vienna. He had decided on a lawsuit against the greatest adversary of his family, a lawsuit that would have enriched him. He suddenly recalled this word of the Pater Noster, which he had sometimes heard: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He said to himself: “How would it be if, instead of carrying on this lawsuit, I would pardon him?” He followed the inspiration, forgave completely, renounced the lawsuit. At that same moment he received the full gift of faith. This one word of the Our Father became his pathway up the mountain of life. He became a priest, a Dominican, and died at the age of fifty years. Though nothing particularly important appeared in the remainder of his life, his soul remained at the height where it had been elevated at the moment of his conversion. Step by step he mounted to the eternal youth which is the life of heaven. The moral runs thus: One great act of self-sacrifice may decide not only our whole spiritual life on earth but also our eternity. We judge a chain of mountains by its highest peak.”
 
      Dear friend, Saint Faustina Kowalska tells us that we are most like God when we show mercy and forgiveness to others  (Diary 1148). But, practically speaking, it is simply in our own best interest to forgive. Why would we want to harm our own spiritual progress by hardening our hearts and refusing mercy to others? And keep in mind that God is constantly sending us actual graces to give us the courage and desire to forgive. God is all helpful: ask Him for the power to forgive. 
 
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
 
 
Reference:

 See Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, page 369, fn on Col. 3:12, wherein it states: “We express gratitude to the Lord by imitating his mercy in our relationships with others. In fact, extending forgiveness to others is necessary if we hope to receive the ongoing forgiveness of the Father (Mt 6:14-15;18:23-35).”  In his book, The Seven Secrets of Confession, Vinny Flynn discusses section 2840 of the CCC.

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AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: GOOD AND BAD ALLIANCES

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      “Modern man does not know what he is doing because he does not know what he is undoing”
(G.K. Chesterton)

 

  “Take away the supernatural and what you are left with is the unnatural”
(G.K. Chesterton)

       Daniel Bell, the famous Harvard sociologist who died in 2011, was deeply concerned about the type of country we would be living in if the religious dimension of society was eclipsed by secularism. In 1976, in somewhat prophetic words, he wrote: “Modern societies have substituted utopia for religion – utopia not as transcendental, but one to be realized through history…with the nutrients of technology….The real problem with modernity is the problem of belief. To use an unfashionable term, it is a spiritual crisis, since the new anchorages have proven illusory, and the old ones have become submerged. It is a situation which brings us back to nihilism; lacking a past or a future, there is only a void…What holds one to reality if one’s secular system of meanings proves to be an illusion? I will risk an unfashionable answer – the return of Western society to some conception of religion.”

      Here in the United States we are witnessing our democratic form of government clamoring for life and vitality because it is detached and removed from its Christian heritage. We are witnessing first-hand what happens to a democracy that was so fortunately undergirded by Christian moral principles, when it then decides to abandon those moral principles and to replace them with a system of moral relativism masquerading as tolerance and pluralism. And we are beginning to wonder: can that democracy survive? And we see that the society our children are inheriting is a strangely different society than the one we grew up in; and one senses a painful paganism – really a materialism –  permeating the whole country. The great Saint John Paul II saw this horrifying reality taking place in the Western world. Here is what he said in his very important encyclical, The Splendor of Truth:

“This is the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level make the acknowledgement of truth impossible. Indeed, “if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.” (from # 101)

    
This is happening folks, right now, right before our very eyes. The victims: most especially our kids, with profound desensitization to the spiritual life and to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, i.e., the only true Kingdom. Our kids at least have a right to see what is transpiring, how they are being robbed of such a humanizing, transcendent force known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are witnessing first-hand a massive loss of faith – virtually an apostasy. Do we realize what this loss of faith means to the future of our democracy?

     In his classic work, Democracy in America, Alex de Tocqueville pointed out that the Christian faith of the American people was a great benefit to the success of their democracy. He said: “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” One wonders what a modern day Tocqueville would have to say about the situation of our current democracy where Christians, more and more, are becoming second class citizens (think, for a moment, of the chilling effect on free speech for American Christians who are silenced out of fear of losing their jobs).

     With paganism comes a loss of sacramental life, and with a loss of sacramental life comes a corresponding loss of salvation. “Ay, there’s the rub.” Indeedwith fewer baptisms will come a corresponding loss of supernatural life in society. The “free man’s worship of nothing” does not bode well for American democracy. One day you may wake up and suddenly realize that with your own children and grandchildren you are an eyewitness to the reemergence of your pagan line of descendants (after how many generations of Catholics who sacrificed so much so that your own progeny could inherit the priceless gift of faith?). Well, be consoled, at least they have really top notch cell phones!  

     And Jesus wept over Jerusalem.


Tom Mulcahy, J.D.

Reference. The edited quote from Daniel Bell is taken from his famous book, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, p.28. The great American prelate, Bishop Fulton Sheen, once said: “There remains the one standard that has not yet been universally used, namely, the choosing of candidates on moral grounds. A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves. When our moral standards are different, our legislation will be different. As long as the decent people refuse to believe that morality must manifest itself in every sphere of human activity, including the political, they will not meet the challenge of Marxism [of secular ideology that becomes increasingly totalitarian].” Pope Benedict XVI warned of the “dictatorship of relativism” that is emerging in our time. He said: “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”

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A SIMPLE YET EFFECTIVE WAY TO MEDITATE

 

“Knowing how much is at stake, the devil wants at all costs to keep us from being faithful to mental prayer.” (Father Jacques Philippe)

“Mary treasured all these things [about Jesus], pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

The great Catholic spiritual writers agree that regular meditation is a crucial component of the spiritual life and of growth in holiness. Meditation is important because it helps us focus with intensity and depth on what is of utmost importance to our lives – the reign of Jesus Christ in our hearts. The focal point for our meditations should, in fact, be the life of Jesus Christ – he who came into the world to enlighten all men (see John 1:9 ). Admittedly, some of the books and manuals on meditation propose long and complex methods of meditation that may be more advisable for professional religious than busy lay men and women. Here is a very simple way to meditate which I am formulating from good books I have read.

Begin your meditation by placing yourself mentally – recollected – in the presence of God and ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to guide you through the meditation and make it profitable for you. The heart of the meditation will then be:

1. Read over slowly and carefully and with deep attention the written material (text) you have chosen to meditate on (for example: the Parable of the Prodigal Son or a few paragraphs from The Imitation of Christ or any suitable, doctrinally sound book).

2. When the meditation strikes at your heart, and you are moved, make acts of love, praise and thanksgiving to God. These “acts” are the beginning of prayer. The ultimate purpose of the meditation is to produce these acts of affection – to ignite the flame of love in our hearts for God and His truths, etc.

3. Full of love for God, enter into conversation with Him in a deeply personal manner. Converse with God. Talk to Him. Share your heart with Him. Listen. Rest in Him. Saint Teresa of Avila is very adamant that this conversing with the Lord through meditation is the fuel which propels the spiritual life to much greater growth! If helpful to your conversation, you can use your imagination to enter into a Bible scene to talk to Jesus or Mary (for example, kneeling before the Lord during his Agony in the Garden and talking to him and consoling him, and letting him console you).

When the meditation is over, you can then thank the Lord for the graces and love you have received through the meditation, and perhaps make a line or verse from the meditation into your “go-to” prayer for the day! Finally, to conclude the meditation, you might consider making a resolution. Thus, if your meditation was on the Holy Eucharist, you might make a resolution to spend more time in preparing to receive that sacrament, or, if your meditation was on the power of forgiveness, you might make a resolution to truly forgive someone who has hurt or offended you.

That’s it! The length of the meditation depends upon the amount of time you have and your preference. However, even a fifteen minute meditation can be quite profitable. With practice you will develop your own style and method of meditating which need only incorporate acts of worship towards God and personal conversation with Him. The point to remember is that the written text of the meditation (which constitutes a profound reflection on a matter pertaining to the faith)  serves as a means or as a platform to lift your heart to praise God and to enter into intimate conversation with Him.

PERSONAL NOTE: I normally meditate in my car. I get up early in the morning when the world is quiet, drive to a nearby bagel establishment, buy a raisin bagel and a large coffee, and then go to my special place in the parking lot. I then eat my bagel, grab my current book on the back seat, say a short preparatory prayer placing myself in the presence of God, and then begin reading my book slowly and with careful attention to what is being said. I occasionally reach for my coffee, and frankly the caffeine enhances concentration! When I get to the point where the written material stokes the fire in my heart (so to speak), I then go to God in affective praise and silent mental prayer. If I’m experiencing dryness in my meditation, I may turn on a Christian music CD to provide an emotional lift. Many of the books I reference in these notes have been the starting point for my meditations, and the notes which I write.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

 

References: I am relying completely on four excellent books by four priests. The key point from these books is that meditation should lead to acts of love and worship to our God, and also to deep and intimate conversation with Him (telling Him, as well, our needs and difficulties). Here are the books:

1. Conversation with Christ by Thomas Rohrbach
2. Time for God by Jacques Phillippe
3. Progress through Mental Prayer by Edward Leen
4. Difficulties in Mental Prayer by Eugene Boylan

Two books I recommend for meditation: The Creator and the Creature by F.W. Faber and Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Father Michael E. Gaitley (but that’s me and other solid Catholic authors may appeal to you).

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JANE EYRE AND THE NEED FOR HEROIC PERSEVERANCE



                            “Trust in God…Believe in Heaven…We were born to strive
                              and endure.” 
  (From Jane Eyre, Chapter 27)

     Jane Eyre is one of the greatest novels in English literature. It is, as Blackburn suggests, essentially a religious novel. It is a novel about long-suffering, painful perseverance and the graces won through the acceptance and endurance of trials and suffering. In the end the proud Mr. Rochester marries Jane Eyre, but only after being severely humbled. He tells Jane near the end of the novel that “I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance, the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were but very sincere” (Chapter 37). Dear God, may we never forget to pray during our tribulations!
     Galatians 5:22 lists long-suffering and patience as two of the 
fruits of the Holy Spirit. Father Lovasik defines these two virtues (a fruit is, in essence, a fully ripened supernatural virtue) in the following manner (using the equivalent word longanimity for long-suffering):

          a. the virtue of patience: “lovingly and fully accepting
              the trials that Divine Goodness sees fit to let a person undergo”; and,
 
          b. the virtue of longanimity: “knowing how to wait,
              feeling certain during trials, that God’s moment will come when He will
              fully aid the suffering person.”

     
Dear friend, it is through many trials and tribulations that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Acts 14:22). We need to beseech the Holy Spirit for the fruits of long-suffering and patience, and over and over again. One of the great principles of the spiritual life is simply to ask God for the virtues we need. God converted Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, and thereafter this great evangelist and apostle endured unbelievable hardships:
 
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Cor. 11:24-27)
 
Saint Peter tried to prevent Jesus from going to Calvary (Matt 16:22), but ultimately learned to embrace suffering and ended up dying on a cross himself (John 21: 18). Saint Paul reminds us that we are children of God “provided that we share [Jesus’] sufferings, so as to share his glory” (Romans 8:17). 
     Let’s face it: there is an immense power of sanctification associated with suffering. And God is in the sanctification business. God will see us through to the end. He his near: “nearer to us than we are to ourselves.” Deep trust, deep prayer, and powerful perseverance is what is needed. And then, like Jane Eyre, when her dreams of happiness were being torn asunder, we will say, “God must have led me on…I was weeping wildly as I walked along my solitary way…a weakness seized me and I fell: I lay on the ground some minutes, pressing my face to the wet turf. I had some fear – or hope – that here I should die: but I was soon up: crawling forward on my hands and knees, and then again raised to my feet – as eager and as determined as ever to reach the road” (Chapter 27).
   Persevere, my friend, during these difficult times which may become increasingly more difficult, for the road of redemptive suffering leads to eternal Life.
 
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
 
 
Ref. There is a song by the Catholic singer, Mark Mallet, with lyrics, “Persevere, my friend, for the reward is eternal life.” In the drawing above from Wikipedia (Public Domain, U.S. A.) the impoverished Jane Eyre encounters help from St. John Rivers. It should be remembered that Miss Eyre left her employment and place of residence in order to avoid a sinful relationship. She chose immense suffering rather than compromising the moral law. Father Lovasik’s definitions are in Favorite Novenas to the Holy Spirit, p.47, (Catholic Book Publishing Co.).

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DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE HEALING POWER OF PRAISING GOD

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Every now and then you may stumble across a note or an essay that turns out to have great value for your spiritual journey. This type of experience happened to me when I was reading a book by Patricia Treece which led me to a note written by Father Ralph Tichenor on the power of praising God, a power which he refers to as a “secret of great faith.”

In the book I was reading by Patricia Treece (who is an author of books on the saints), she mentions an encounter she had with a holy priest named Father Ralph Tichenor when she was still Protestant. Treece relates in her book that the holy priest’s face normally”beamed” with “love and goodwill,” but during the night in question, while he was giving a “simple talk,” she actually saw the priest “suffused by a yellowish-white light which streamed out to me. The light was warm and sweet. As this light touched me, I said to myself, ‘I’m being healed.'” She then relates the healing she received and “spiritual benefits as well” from this “luminous priest.” Interested to find out a little about Father Tichenor, who died in 1983, I searched the web and came across a rather amazing note written by the priest entitled, The Secret of Great Faith,” which is an awesome note about the power of praising God.

In his note Father Tichenor writes: “Let me sum up. The secret of faith without doubt is praise continuous, great triumphant praise which becomes a way of life.” He says that “the Holy Spirit…is calling us to a life of praise.” He says that “through praise (and only praise of God) the whole world will be renewed.”

Father Tichenor  tells us that “many Catholics underestimate the power of praise.” He further states that even Catholics who live  “disciplined lives of prayer and intercession” find their faith “weak” and “uncertain” because the secret of great faith is to be “engaged in the praise of God.” From “the Scriptures,” he says, “we find that the entire universe…is seen as engaged in one great chorus of praise to the Creator.”

Father Tichenor adds that praise of God gives us power over evil because “Satan fears praise even more than prayer.” Satan “simply cannot operate in…a setting” where there is “joyful praise” and “reverence,” “adoration,” and “acceptable worship” of God. “So where there is great triumphant praise, Satan is overcome, confused and banished.”

Tichenor instructs us that “to be most effective, praise must be great, continuous, a fixed habit, a lifetime occupation, a vocation, a total way of life.” This means that we must learn to praise God not only when we are filled with joy “but always,” even when “things are painful, humiliating and even disastrous.”

Father Tichenor tells the story of a woman who came to him whose daughter was “on drugs, alcohol and involved in prostitution.” Father Tichenor instructed the woman to “give your daughter to Jesus” in faith and to praise and thank God for her daughter in all circumstances, no matter how dire and difficult. So the mother one night got on her knees and entrusted her daughter to God.  As the mother’s attitude and behavior changed a healing occurred. Father Tichenor relates:

“This kept on for awhile and then there was a complete change in her daughter. The mother and daughter came to me about six months later, and the healing had been complete. I asked the daughter what had happened. She said the first night when her mother didn’t complain and wasn’t in tears startled her….And finally, since she was received at home with love, she wanted to know how her mother was able to do it. When she found out how, she wanted to have whatever her mother had. So they went to a prayer meeting. The daughter is now baptized in the Spirit and very active in the Renewal.”

To sum up, according to Father Tichenor the secret of great faith is praise continuous! “We must continue ceaselessly to live a life of praise to the Glory of God.” And as “one praises and worships, he is transformed step-by-step from glory-to-glory, into the image of the infinitely joyous God.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

 

P.S.  In All for Jesus, Chapter 8, Father Faber relays a number of methods used by the saints to praise God. It is a chapter well worth reading. The book by Patricia Treece is The Mystical Body, p. 37.

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THE SYNOD ON THE FAMILY AND FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO

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I hate it when a lawyer cites a case in a legal brief but then leaves out the most important part of the case which would have clarified everything. Sometimes such an omission is negligent, other times it may even be intentional.

So when I look at Section 85 of the Final Report produced by the Bishops at the recently concluded Synod on the Family, which speaks to the big issue of whether a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic might be permitted to receive Holy Communion, I immediately notice that the very first sentence points to a solution previously made by Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio to resolve such a situation. That sentence reads: “Saint John Paul II offered a complex criterion that remains the basis for the evaluation of these situations.” The very next sentence in Section 85 of the Synod document references Familiaris Consortio, 1981, n. 84 as authoritative. So it is unquestionably the case that the Synod document points to Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio as dispositive.

Now it is true that in Familiaris Consortio Pope John Paul II made several suggestions as to how a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic could share in the life of the Church. The Pope said:

“Together with the synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the church, for as baptized persons they can and indeed must share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother and thus sustain them in faith and hope” (Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 1981, n. 84).

However, Pope John Paul II went on to say in Familiaris Consortio ( n. 84) that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics positively could not receive Holy Communion, for two very profound reasons:

“However, the church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon sacred scripture, of not admitting to eucharistic communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the church which is signified and effected by the eucharist. Besides this there is another special pastoral reason: If these people were admitted to the eucharist the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.”

The paragraph quoted directly above is missing from Section 85 of the Synod document, even though it provides the clear and definite answer to whether the discernment process mentioned in Sections 85 and 86 of the Synod document might even allow the divorced and civilly remarried Catholic to receive Holy Communion. Now, is it possible to agree that Familiaris Consortio provides the guidelines to the problem whether a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic can receive Holy Communion, but then to ignore the solution it provides? That must be what some people are hoping for…to make ambiguous that which Saint John Paul II made very clear.

Cardinal Dolan of New York recently stated that “the final proposal of the Synod Bishops did nothing to alter that teaching” which precludes a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic from receiving Holy Communion. Cardinal Dolan’s opinion is entirely consistent with the Synod Bishops’ reliance on Familiaris Consortio. It is now reported that Pope Francis will be preparing an Apostolic Exhortation based on the proposals of the Bishops at the Synod.

Tom Mulcahy, J.D.

Ref. The translation I am relying on for Section 85 of the final Synod document comes from cruxnow.com (10/25/15). Section 86 of the Synod document also references Familiaris Consortio, but again not its actual prohibition of Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Stock photo.

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