Month: February 2016

THE VERY LAST WORDS I MIGHT SAY TO YOU!

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          “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)


 I came across some very powerful notes of Father F.W. Faber (an acclaimed “master in mystical theology” according to Catholic Encyclopedia) from the second to last homily he ever preached (which was during Lent).  He first preached about the importance of penance and then he mentioned three grand helps in the spiritual battle for our souls.

In the homily he mentioned three grand helps,” the last of which, faith in hell, he lays incredible importance on – and this was in 1863. His point is that loss of belief in hell leads to laxity and spiritual death. Thus, a great safeguard against going to hell is belief in its existence, and that is his point. What’s interesting is that Jesus did not avoid telling us about hell. The key point: faith in hell is a sure deterrent from going there. When Saint Faustina was shown hell, she mentioned that so many of its occupants hadn’t believed in hell (Diary, 741).

Here is the note (by Faber):

“I would urge upon you the three grand helps, and not helps only, but facilities also, of penance. 

      
                               1.     Continual remembrance of our sins. 

                               2.    Continual remembrance of His [Jesus’] Passion. 

                               3.    Continual remembrance of an undoubting faith in Hell.”

With respect to the third point, Father Faber states:


“The devil’s worst and most fatal preparation for the coming of Antichrist is the weakening of men s belief in eternal punishment. Were they the last words I  might ever say to you, nothing should I wish to say to you with more emphasis than this, that next to the thought of the Precious Blood there is no thought in all your faith more precious or more needful for you than the thought of Eternal Punishment.“  
(Fourth Sunday in Lent, 1863; this was the last occasion but one on which Father Faber preached; from: Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects, p.23)

These profound thoughts of a very great spiritual writer deserve a moment’s meditation.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A. 

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MARY, SAINT JOHN VIANNEY AND A EUCHARISTIC MIRACLE

 

 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6:56)

THREE DAYS OF DARKNESS

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                     For this is God’s will, your sanctification (1 Thes. 4:3)

There is in Catholic prophecy predictions of an upcoming period of physical darkness (“three days of darkness”) in which consciences will be illuminated (purified), paving the way for a  period of great evangelization for the church. Even the very sober and trustworthy Ralph Martin posts on his website a prophecy he was given in 1975 in the presence of Pope Paul VI in Rome, and the word received by Mr. Martin then warns of “days of darkness.” I cannot comment on the merit of these predictions (see postscript below regarding three saints linked to this prophecy) since I have always felt the prophecy of my own death had an infallible ring to it (and thus was sufficient to awaken my heart to the call of the Gospel). My interest in these three days of darkness is in the explosion of holiness we would witness in friends and neighbors and in ourselves should the prophecy come to fruition. In such a scenario we would witness people we actually know ascend to incredible holiness in an amazingly short period of time. It would truly be an amazing phenomenon to witness! (a type of Pentecost).

Human beings are capable, with the assistance of grace, of incredible holiness; we are also capable, due to sin and human deceit, of immense degradation. There is, as scripture clearly tells us, a war raging in our souls between the “death-directed flesh” and the the “life-giving Spirit”. To set the mind on the flesh is death. To set the mind on the Spirit is life. Dear God, help us to chose life (see Romans 8:6)

God made us to be holy. This is our vocation: sanctification. God fills us with His own supernatural life to make us holy and unite us in love to Him. Do not underestimate your capacity for holiness, lest you underestimate God Himself. But what holds us back?, or rather what might be of aid to us in growing closer to God and becoming less infatuated with sin? I am going to suggest, relying on my good friend Father Faber, seven things that might help to supercharge our spiritual batteries! I’ll bet one or two of them might really grab your attention and be of special help to you. Here’s the list:


1. NURTURING A GREATER DESIRE FOR GOD
        
Comment: “What prepares the soul to be united with God
                              is the desire for God” (Saint John of the Cross). 
                              The united wealth of the world is as if nothing
                              compared to what God means to you. “He who
                              has God has everything” (Saint Teresa of Avila).

2. NURTURING AN ABIDING SORROW FOR SIN
      Comment:   See Faber’s famous essay, ” Abiding Sorrow for Sin,”
                             in Growth in Holiness (TAN Books). Preferred
                             devotion to aid in obtaining this grace: devotion
                             to our Lord’s Passion and Mary’s Seven Sorrows. See
                             also Chapter 3 of “All for Jesus”.

3. MEDITATING ON THE SANCTITY OF GOD
        Comment: This meditation remedies a low view of God.
                            “The more by assiduous contemplation of
                             HIS attributes we come to know the God to
                             whom we belong.” Book recommendation:
                             The Creator and the Creature” by Faber.
                             Meditating on God’s Infinite holiness helps
                             us to understand the “sinfulness of sin,” and
                             the magnitude of God’s mercy merited for
                             us by Jesus.

4. DEVELOPING A SPIRIT OF EUCHARISTIC ADORATION
       Comment:  An incredibly powerful devotion! I especially
                            recommend it to anyone who is presently enduring
                            some particular hardship or suffering. I highly
                            recommend Saint Eymard’s book, “In the Light
                            of the Monstrance,” which is truly a great book.
                            Father Eymard founded The Blessed Sacrament Fathers.


5. DEVELOPING A MORE INTENSE SPIRIT OF PENANCE
       Comment: Part of our exile here on planet earth is about 
                            penance! Joyful penance! Too much comfort
                            makes us weary of what is so powerfully good
                            for us.

6. MAKING A FIRM PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT FOLLOWING CONFESSION
       
Comment: This is about having a mega-serious attitude about your
                            promised amendment!!!!!!


7. PRACTICING SIMPLICITY
       Comment: Walks in nature, family prayer, saying the rosary, 
                           nurturing a spirit where we do not covet our neighbor’s
                           goods, etc. Faber says (I paraphrase): Look out to God.
                           Love God’s Amazing glory!! Hate the things that 
                           separate you from God. Live simply.”

We do not have to wait for days of darkness to grow in holiness. Grace is available in super-abundance through the sacraments instituted by the Lord of Life.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Postscript: Three Saints who have foretold a period of three days of darkness include Saint Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified (who died in 1878 and was canonized by Pope Francis on May 17, 2015), Saint Caspar del Bufalo (died 1837), and Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (who also died in 1837 and is well known for her extraordinary mystical gifts and experiences). See pages 26-28 of Prophecy For Today by Edward Connnor (TAN). If you search the internet, you will find sites which discuss the possible imminent fulfillment of this prophecy.

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DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT GOD LOVES YOU?

A METHOD OF CONTEMPORARY MEDITATION ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

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“CAN I RELAX MY LENTEN FAST ON SUNDAYS?”

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Someone emailed me the question, “CAN I RELAX MY LENTEN FAST ON SUNDAYS?” Here’s my response:

Here’s my take. The “forty” day fast during Lent you have in mind is purely voluntary and traditional…it is not mandated by Church – canon  – law, but highly recommended in our tradition. 

What is mandated during Lent is to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday – which means one full meal and two snack meals on those two days. This is called a fast.

Also during Lent we are required by canon law to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. This is called abstinence.

As you know, there are exceptions for the young and the old and sick. Check for the age exceptions.

The so called forty day fast during Lent is in imitation of our Lord’s forty day fast in the desert. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 540, which reads:

“‘For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning’ [Heb 4:15]. By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (CCC 540).

The 40 day fast is not mandatory, only voluntary. The only binding rules during Lent are mentioned above. The “Sunday” exception is thus really only an exception to a non-binding idea of justice for those doing the 40 day fast voluntarily, based on two considerations: (1) that Sunday, celebrating the Resurrection, is a day of celebration, not fasting, and (2) the period of time from Ash Wednesday to Easter is actually 45 days long, so you’re still going about 40 days even if you skip Sundays!

What do I do? I do my voluntary fast every day from Ash Wednesday until the dawn of Easter! I’m with you…once I start I stay in the desert with Jesus until Easter Sunday! However, to answer the question posed  –  Yes, you can skip fasting on Sundays during Lent, and this is simply up to your own choice.

God Bless you,

Tom Mulcahy

Ref. I reviewed a number of internet articles on this issue, and found the posts by Jimmy Akin to be among the most helpful. Photo by “U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian May,” in the Public Domain, U.S.A., per Wikipedia.

 

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NO ONE IS LOST BY SURPRISE

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“[God] who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

God is just. Infinitely just. He is neither arbitrary or capricious. No one is lost by surprise. Everyone, at the end of life’s journey, will be able to tally up a gargantuan amount of graces sent by the Father of Mercy to save us. A bitter victory it will thus be, as F.W. Faber points out, if we manage to succeed in rejecting these graces.

How much grace God sends to someone estranged from Him is not subject to precise theological formulation.The starting point is the Infinite Goodness of God who is generous to every soul. The great Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri  quotes with complete approval Soto who said:

      “I am absolutely certain, and I believe that all the Holy Doctors who were worthy of the name were always most positive, that no one was ever deserted by God is this mortal life”  (The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, p.149).
 

A more recent theologian, Father Garrigou-LaGrange says: Christ’s humanity communicates to us from minute to minute the actual grace of the present moment, as the air we breathe continually enters our lungs. *** Outside the sacraments, this activity of the Savior transmits the lights of faith to unbelievers who do not resist it.” 

Finally, Father Faber states: “Figures could not put down the number of graces  [God] has given and is hourly giving to us” (p. 142); Faber states that even a man in mortal sin, through faith and hope, receives “incessant crowds of…actual graces” (p. 250). At page 313 Faber states that “God is infinitely merciful to every soul,” and “no one ever has been lost…by surprise….”  ( The Creator and the Creature, TAN).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
 

P.S. The quote from Father Garrigou-LaGrange is from The Three Ages of the Interior Life. In his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, Saint John Paul II says the following:

Salvation in Christ Is Offered to All 10. “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.”

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THE SHORTEST ROAD TO HEAVEN

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 “O for some corner, the least, the lowest, and the last in the world to come                        [Heaven], where we may spend an untired eternity in giving silent thanks to Jesus Crucified!” (F.W. Faber)                               

“The sorrow and happiness of each individual soul begins at the foot of the cross. It is well or ill with us according as we are in harmony with [Jesus’] Passion…. [T]here is no earthly object of any real abiding value to us compared with the Passion of our dearest Lord. All is dross compared with it…. In the uttermost distances of our eternal life, where in truth there are no distances, it is the Passion which will still support us, the Passion which will keep the vision open, the Passion out of which the inebriating torrents of God’s splendor will still renew our souls.

The Passion rules the history of the world. Thus it is also the secret of all biographies of individual souls. All their ruin comes from their disloyalty to the Passion. All their holiness in time, and their glory in eternity, are the consequences of their loyalty to the Passion.   

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified – this is the object of our present contemplation. As we grow older we set a greater price on fidelity; and where is there such faithfulness [and such indisputable proof of God’s love for you] as in the Cross? Devotion to the Passion is at once the surest sign of Predestination, and the shortest road to heaven. Happy are they whom the cruelty and treachery of life have driven to the Cross”(emphasis added).

This quote of Father Faber is taken from Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects, Part 1, pages 223-232. The quote is edited and is not in the order it was written. I have rearranged some of the sentences and paragraphs to facilitate this short excerpt. Father Faber was preparing a book on the Passion, which he did not complete, and these notes were from the beginning of that unfinished manuscript.

Comment:

The Passion is God’s demonstration of His deep love for us. Our love of God will thus grow in proportion to our devotion to and gratitude for the Savior who “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Devotion to our Lord’s Passion is characteristic of the saints (so how much more do we need it?). “He who desires to go on advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, should meditate continually on the Passion of Jesus…There is no practice more profitable for the entire sanctification of the soul than frequent meditation on the suffering of Christ” (Saint Bonaventure).  Let us then, this Lent, renew our devotion to our Lord’s Passion, and “stand with Mary at the foot of the cross.”

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Practical Recommendation: 

The crucifix in your home is of tremendous value. Spend a few minutes each day in Lent looking at our Lord on the cross and thank him for having come to save you – yeah, you! If directed by your heart, kiss your crucifix and tell the Lord how dear He is to you. In this life we look at a ton of useless images: we ought to be looking at the crucifix!

Wishing you a Blessed Lent,

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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ROSARY REPUGNANCE AND ROSARY PERSEVERANCE

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“The Rosary of the Virgin Mary…is a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness” (Saint John Paul II)

Its not exactly an earth shattering revelation that we sometimes have dryness in our devotions. Sometimes God does His best purifying work in our souls during the time we are in the desert. How are we going to learn to walk by Faith (which is a theological, God-directed virtue) if we are always hankering after consolations and mystical experience? Ask Blessed Mother Teresa whose “dark night” extended two decades. But she never stopped saying her Rosary.

 If Saint Louis de Montfort maintains that a strong devotion to the Rosary is a sign of Predestination, consider it a strong delusion if someone should persuade you to slack off on the Rosary. The devil makes saying the Rosary a special object of repugnance, says a great spiritual writer, because of all the good the Rosary does for us. Dear God, what do we need more in these troubled times than perseverance in the Rosary!

I’m sure that when dedicated long distance runners go on a run they don’t always experience that runner’s high you read about, but that doesn’t mean a long and painful run doesn’t do them good. It is probably that long and painful run that does them the most good, preparing them to endure the Boston Marathon at its most difficult moments.

In practicing spiritual discernment consider all the great things that Saints and Popes and great spiritual writers have said about the Rosary! Consider what Mary asked of us at Fatima. The Rosary is our “chain of perseverance.” This is not the time to go light on the Rosary. Say it with special love during those times of dryness. The spiritual life is ultimately lived in the will rather than the emotions. And emotional life is beautifully purified when the will is made holy.

Tom Mulcahy

Ref.  In notes published after his death, the following was said by Father Faber: “In consequence of all these blessings [from saying the Rosary], the devil makes the Rosary a special subject of temptations, weariness, contempt, and the like. Persevere in it, and it will itself be the chain of your own final perseverance.” He also calls the rosary “an instrument of power” (Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects, p. 308).  Three things to ask in our discernment are: Is this thought or suggestion from the Holy Spirit?; Or from my fallen human nature?; Or from the deceptive spirit, the Father of lies?

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THEOLOGY OF THE IMAGINATION

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 “Examine me, O LORD, and test me. Look closely into my heart and mind.” (Psalm 26:2)

In addition to the purification of the memory (which tends to tenaciously hold on to harmful memories which impede spiritual growth), Saint John of the Cross also calls for a purification of the imagination. A purification of the imagination is needed because the mind becomes polluted when the imagination is used for sinful and evil purposes.

A first step in purifying the imagination is simply to mortify its attempt to imagine sinful pleasures or harmful actions. In this sense there is an active purification of the mind by way of a virtue driven custody of the imagination. The more we cut off the evil inclination of the imagination at its first movement toward sin, the more we rewire the imagination to act in a virtuous manner.

A second and powerful step to purify the imagination is to use the imagination as a method of meditation on the life and mysteries of Jesus Christ. In this manner we begin to use the imagination in an incredibly useful and sanctifying manner.

 All of the mysteries of Christ’s life are potent sources of grace. Thus, meditating on the mysteries of Christ’s life does a “real work” in our souls. The faculty of the imagination is useful in this regard because we can use the imagination to “mystically transport” us back to the side of Christ in all of his mysteries. The Saint who particularly recommended this method of meditation on the mysteries of Jesus’ life by utilizing the imagination is Ignatius of Loyola. His book of Spiritual Exercises contains a series of meditations where you imaginatively enter into the mysteries of Jesus’ life and even converse with Jesus (or Mary) pertaining to the mystery in question. This method of meditation can be profoundly transformative and purifying.

Saint John of the Cross will recommend an even deeper purification of the imagination in a “super-discursive” manner. Here we are talking about a method of prayer where the imagination is placed in silence in order to advance in a deeper form of prayer devoid of images and directed towards the simple contemplation of God (see Book III of The Ascent of Mt. Carmel).

The imagination is capable of greatly aiding our sanctification. By mortification, meditation and contemplation we can utilize the imagination to grow in holiness. Imagine that!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref.  See Chapter XXV of Vol. I of The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Father Garrigou-LaGrange. Father Garrigou-LaGrange mentions that Jesus used sensible images in imaginative parables to raise his listeners’ minds to spiritual truths. Here is a link to my previous post on the healing of bad memories:
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