Month: March 2017



“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” (T.S. Eliot)

Deep within the bowels of hell a demon was overheard giving these instructions to his team:

“In order to completely desensitize human beings to spiritual life let us feed them, through a hand held electronic device, continuous sensory images of little or no value, letting them think that the only real thing in life is the flash of an image that provides some small but instantaneous gratification, multiplied on and on by more images, until our subjects are not so much humans anymore but automatons.

Our goal will be to especially deprive younger human beings of any sort of real life, of any sort of real relationship with another human being, by enslaving them to a false life of sensory addiction where, even while walking in nature, they will be addicted to their hand-held machine and the illusion of real life they cling to within the machine. A hundred thousand images an hour will keep their senses in bondage. They will never be able to raise their thoughts to anything higher, or more noble, than the next image. Spiritual life will have no meaning, for it will have no reference point.

Look! It’s working. We are robbing these kids of their vital spirit. They are devolving. It’s like a drug. They need the machine to be happy. But it’s killing them. They are becoming soul-less human beings.”

Comment: Perhaps this diabolical diatribe is a bit over the top, but don’t think this isn’t happening to some degree in many of the young. They think the shadows are real, because they never look up at the sun. I care about these kids, and I know you do too. The remedy to this very real and serious problem involves the great Catholic spiritual principle of detachment, where we begin to control our desire for things that are stunting or limiting our true moral and spiritual development, eliminating anything which is immoral, and strictly limiting things which are harmful because they keep us away from other activities which are far more humanizing and God-directed. In the order of the human being, says Father Garrigou-LaGrange,  God is the greatest good to which all other goods must be subordinated. Prayer, then, is a fundamental antidote to despiritualization.

Pope Francis gives us hope that we can use our new media in a beneficial manner. He says that “efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches.” In context, here is the full quote:

“Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature. Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise”  (From: Encyclical Letter LAUDATO SI’, no. 47).

In a recent study, The University of  Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found that “young adults who use social media for at least two hours a day double their risk of feeling socially isolated.” Please refer to the following link:

Study: 2 Hours of Social Media Doubles Risk of Social Isolation Feelings in Young Adults

The Church’s greatest mystical theologian, Saint John of the Cross, talks about the purification of the senses brought about by placing them under the cover of spiritual darkness. In the spiritual night, we can see in a deeper way, just like at night when we go outside we can see stars light years away that are not visible in the day. Perhaps such a purification is just what the doctor ordered! Perhaps just getting out into nature, into the “real world,” would be a great way to begin such a purification. See my post (more applicable to adults):

Oh Blessed Night of Pure Faith: A Bird’s-eye View of the Spirituality of …

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

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Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ ”   (Luke 2:34-35)

“We draw [Jesus] toward us the moment we begin to think of His Mother’s sorrows. He is beforehand, says Saint Anselm, with those who meditate His Mother’s woes. And do we not stand in need of power in heaven? What a great work we have to do in our souls, and how little of it is already done! How slight is the impression we have made yet on our ruling passion, on our besetting sin! How superficial is our spirit of prayer, how childishly timid our spirit of penance, how transitory our moments of union with God! We want vigor, determination, consistency, solidity, and a more venturous aspiration.

In short, our spiritual life wants power.  And here is a devotion so solid and efficacious, that it is eminently calculated to give us this power, as well by its masculine products in the soul as by its actual influence over the Heart of our Blessed Lord. Who, that looks well at the saints, and sees what it has done for them, but will do his best to cultivate this devotion in himself.

[Do] not some of us feel that the world grows more attractive to us as we grow older? It should not be so; but so it is. This comes of lukewarmness. Age unlearns many things; but woe betide it when it unlearns vigor, when it unlearns hope! Rest is a great thing. It is the grand want of age. But we must not lie down before our time! Ah! how often has fervent youth made the world its bed in middle life! and when at last the world slipped from under it, whither did it fall? If we live only in the enervating ring of domestic love, much more in the vortex of the world,we must live with Jesus in the spirit of Mary or we are lost.

Let us learn this in increased devotion to her [sorrows]… and it will become in us a continually flowing fountain of supreme unworldliness. Torpor will become impossible. Oblivion [forgetfulness] of supernatural things will become unknown. We shall feel that rest will be present for a while; but we will disdain the temptation [to flee from the cross]. Mary will teach us to stand beneath the cross….

He who is growing in devotion to the Mother of God is growing in all good things. His time cannot be better spent; his eternity cannot be more infallibly secured…. And there is nothing about Our Lady which stimulates our love more effectually than her dolors [sorrows]” (Emphasis added).

Edited and slightly adapted from The Foot of the Cross: The Sorrows of Mary, pages 68-73, by Father F.W. Faber (TAN Books). Father Faber, a convert, was one of the great spiritual writers of the 19th century.

Tom Mulcahy

Image: Michelangelo’s Pieta with black cut out by Stanislav Traykov, Niabot (cut out) 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 published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. At Wikipedia and incorporated here by reference.

P.S. The Seven Sorrows of Mary are: 1) The Prophecy of Simeon; 2) The Flight into Egypt; 3) The Three Days’ Loss: 4)  Mary meets her son with the cross; 5) The Crucifixion (Mary at the foot of the cross); 6) Jesus is taken down from the cross; and 7) The burial of Jesus. The devotional booklet I use and recommend is: Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother (TAN Books).

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

“For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:29)

Saint Pope John Paul II was clearly concerned about the dark clouds of Eucharistic ambiguity hovering over the Church. He therefore wrote an encyclical on the Eucharist where he specifically stated the following:

“It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no.10).”

This great Pope and Saint was deeply concerned about the “shadows” and “confusion” that obscured the sacramental nature of the Eucharist and even encouraged practices contrary to the well established disciplines of the Church. The Pope, expressing his own personal grief over these developments, said in the encyclical:

“Unfortunately…there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 10).”

In his encyclical on the Eucharist Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the teaching of the Council of Trent that one must be in a state of grace in order to properly receive Holy Communion. The Pope states:

“Along these same lines, the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly stipulates that ‘anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion’. I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, “one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no.36).”

Furthermore, the Pope stresses in his encyclical the impossibility of sharing Holy Communion with other ecclesial communities.

“Precisely because the Church’s unity, which the Eucharist brings about through the Lord’s sacrifice and by communion in his body and blood, absolutely requires full communion in the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments and ecclesiastical governance, it is not possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic liturgy until those bonds are fully re-established. Any such concelebration would not be a valid means, and might well prove instead to be an obstacle, to the attainment of full communion, by weakening the sense of how far we remain from this goal and by introducing or exacerbating ambiguities with regard to one or another truth of the faith. The path towards full unity can only be undertaken in truth. In this area, the prohibitions of Church law leave no room for uncertainty,92 in fidelity to the moral norm laid down by the Second Vatican Council (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no.44).”

Finally, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliation and Penance (a document highly relevant to the proper reception of Holy Communion), Pope John Paul II warned the Church against trying to create a theological category out of psychological considerations and mitigating circumstances, stating:

“But from a consideration of the psychological sphere one cannot proceed to the construction of a theological category, which is what the ‘fundamental option’ precisely is, understanding it in such a way that it objectively changes or casts doubt upon the traditional concept of mortal sin.

While every sincere and prudent attempt to clarify the psychological and theological mystery of sin is to be valued, the Church nevertheless has a duty to remind all scholars in this field of the need to be faithful to the word of God that teaches us also about sin. She likewise has to remind them of the risk of contributing to a further weakening of the sense of sin in the modern world (no.17).”

In Familiaris Consortio ( no. 84) Pope John Paul II wrote 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 Bishops of the Synods on the Family convened by Pope Francis strongly reaffirmed the decisive authority of Familiaris Consortio in their final report to the Holy Father, making it the document of definite reference. The attempt by some Bishops (in the two Synods) to build a consensus to allow an exception for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion did not occur. Familiaris Consortio is the definite law of the Church and stands supreme over any Eucharistic ambiguity some in the Church have tried to create, much to the confusion and detriment of the faithful.

Chapter Eight of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia references the authority of Familiaris Consortio and nowhere claims to change or contradict it. As Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, Pope Francis’ prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: “If Amoris Laetitia intended to rescind such a deeply rooted and such a weighty discipline, it would have expressed itself in a clear manner and it would have given the reasons for it. However, such a statement with such a meaning is not to be found in [the document]. Nowhere does the pope put into question the arguments of his predecessors.” Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Pope Francis has caused significant ambiguity and deep concern on this issue by way of his now infamous footnote 351. This unfortunate ambiguity in Amoris Laetitia must be read against the clear and decisive prohibition contained in No. 84 of Familiaris Consortio, which strictly prohibits Holy Communion for divorced persons who have remarried without an annulment. As Saint John Paul II reminds us, “The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.”

Vom 15. bis 19. November 1980 besuchte Seine Heiligkeit Papst Johannes Paul II. die Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Auf Einladung von Bundespräsident Karl Carstens hat der Papst seinen pastoralen Besuch mit einem offiziellen in Bonn verbunden. Am 15. November gab der Bundespräsident einen Empfang zu Ehren Seiner Heiligkeit auf Schloß Augustusburg in Brühl bei Bonn. Dort führte Papst Johannes Paul II. auch ein Gespräch mit Bundeskanzler Helmut Schmidt. Gleichzeitig traf Bundesaußenminister Hans-Dietrich Genscher mit Kardinal-Staatssekretär Casaroli zusammen. Im Anschluß an den offiziellen Teil begab sich der Papst auf den Bonner Münsterplatz, um dort eine Ansprache zu halten. Ferner bestand der pastorale Teil aus Besuchen in Köln, Osnabrück, Mainz, Fulda, Altötting und München. In allen diesen Städten hielt Papst Johannes Paul II. die Heilige Messe. Eigentlicher Anlaß seines Aufenthaltes in der Bundesrepublik war der 700. Todestag von Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), dessen Grab der Papst in Köln besuchte. Bundespräsident Karl Carstens und Papst Johannes Paul II. auf Schloß Augustusburg in Brühl.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Photo Attribution: The photograph of Pope John Paul II by Lothar Schaack, Nov. 15, 1980, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germanylicense.  Attribution: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F059404-0019 / Schaack, Lothar / CC-BY-SA (at Wikipedia article on Pope John Paul II, incorporated here by reference).

P.S. Pope John Paul II also penned the following important words pertinent to the subject matter of this note:

“In this context, appropriate allowance is made both for God’s mercy towards the sinner who converts and for the understanding of human weakness. Such understanding never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil in order to adapt it to particular circumstances. It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to God and his mercy. An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.” (Veritatis Splendor, 104).

Ref. I am grateful to Fr Raymond J de Souza for pointing out the importance of Reconciliation and Penance, no. 17, with respect to the issues in question.

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(Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” (John 19:15)

“The common cause of all failures in perfection is the want of abiding sorrow for sin…all holiness has lost its principle of growth if it is separated from abiding sorrow for sin, for the principle of growth is not love only, but forgiven love.” (F.W. Faber)

There is a fascinating scene in Milton’s Paradise Lost where the fallen angels, having been cast down into hell after losing their battle to overthrow God, have a rap session about what went wrong, and come to the conclusion that they just didn’t realize how powerful God is. It was, sad to say, the wrong time to learn that lesson. In a similar vein, the right time to discover God’s vehement dislike for sin – sin being completely contrary to God’s Infinite Sanctity –  is not at the final judgment! We are called to be a repentant people, and the “fruition of [this] repentance” is true sorrow for sin. And yet we so often find ourselves committing the same sin today that we confessed last week, which raises the question whether we have nurtured a true sorrow – indeed, even contempt – for that sin (or whether, in actuality, we still harbor a secret affection for that sin which we need to wage war on?). The “moral imperative” of the Gospel to be holy (as one theology professor taught me)  goes to the very essence of what the Gospel is all about.

Father Faber has a chapter called “Abiding Sorrow for Sin” in his excellent book, Growth In Holiness. I skipped the chapter initially because it didn’t catch my interest, but when I finally read it I was deeply moved by it. Faber states that he spent much time reflecting on what hinders devout persons from moving on to greater perfection in the spiritual life, and he came to the conclusion that it is the failure to enkindle in one’s heart an abiding sorrow for sin – not one’s particular past sins already forgiven, but a sorrow in general for our past sins and all the sin in the world that opposes our great God. It is this abiding sorrow for sin that maintains a true humility in our souls and makes us genuinely thankful – indeed overwhelmingly thankful – for what Jesus did for us. This sorrow also makes us genuinely eager to spread the good news of salvation, thus making us productive workers for Jesus’ interests.This attitude of sorrow and thankfulness makes us fall more deeply in love with Jesus.

How do we nurture this abiding sorrow for sin?  Faber says it is done by meditating frequently on the passion and death of our Lord. The more deeply we enter into our Lord’s passion, the closer we draw to His Sacred Heart. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is thus highly efficacious for this purpose. Finally, Faber says don’t confuse a loving, heart-felt sorrow with a self-centered sadness. The former is good and the latter harmful. Faber states:

“It is forgiven sin for which we mourn, and not sin which perils self. And this very fact makes it also a fountain of love. We love because much has been forgiven, and we always remember how much it was. We love because the forgiveness has abated fear. We love because we wonder at the compassion that could so visit such unworthiness. We love because the softness of sorrow is akin to the filial confidence of love. Thus abiding sorrow for sin is the only possible parallel in our souls to the mysterious life-long sorrow of Jesus and Mary; and the fact that sorrow clung to them characteristically in spite of their sinlessness seems to show how much of the secret life of Christian holiness is hidden in its gentle supernatural melancholy” (p.265)

If you have the book All for Jesus, take a look at Chapter Three, “Be Sorry for Sin” (“Love Wounded by Sin” in the unabridged TAN version), and you will find a powerful explanation of this concept of nurturing an abiding sorrow for sin (and you will be thankful for it). Faber spent an enormous amount of time studying how the saints grew in holiness, and this nurturing an abiding sorrow for sin is a fruition of his efforts (much to our benefit).

This sorrow for sin corresponds to our love for God. We are sorry for all the sin in the world precisely because sin robs God of the glory he intended for creatures. We therefore begin to see sin from the perspective of God’s Infinite Goodness, and for this reason we begin to sorrow over all the harm sin causes in the world. We therefore begin to dislike sin because it is so contrary to God’s plan for our lives and so harmful to Him who is “deserving of all our love.” Pray for the grace of an abiding sorrow for sin. This abiding sorrow for sin will help to console the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Tom Mulcahy

Image: Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (between circa 1860 and circa 1880). Public Domain, U.S.A.

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     “I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond.”

Introduction: This note is merely a summary of Saint Teresa of Avila’s great book on Catholic mysticism, The Interior Castle, which was first published in 1588. The Saint herself, a Carmelite nun, was a great mystic, and her personal style of writing demonstrates that she composed The Interior Castle from profound personal experience.

1. The soul.  Saint Teresa of Avila begins her famous book about the soul’s progress in prayer and virtue by lamenting how little effort many people make to care for their immortal souls. She states that “faith tells us that we possess souls” made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we should take time to consider the “soul’s great dignity and beauty,” and to “carefully preserve the soul’s beauty.” (Intr. 11; IC 28-29)

2. The castle metaphor. Teresa envisions the soul “as if it were a castle made of a single diamond” in which there are seven mansions (each mansion containing many rooms). The outer walls of this castle constitute the human body. Outside the castle there are many “venomous creatures” who represent the attraction of sin which the soul is now trying to overcome. Those outside the castle are paralyzed by sin. (IC 28)

3. God dwells in the soul. A central concept of Teresa’s spirituality is the realization that God is immanent – that is, He dwells within the innermost mansion of the human soul (thus, using Teresa’s image of the castle, He dwells in the seventh mansion). “All harm comes to us from failing to realize that God is near.” For “the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).

4. The soul’s mission. The soul can journey within these mansions to unite itself to God, so as to plant itself, like a tree, in the “living waters of life.” This journey to God is the soul’s essential mission. Even in this lifetime, the soul can make it all the way to the seventh mansion where it is completely united with God. This journey is completed in Heaven where the soul experiences the beatific vision. (IC 33)

5. The soul’s enemy: mortal sin. If we knew how much damage one mortal sin does to the soul, Teresa believes we would go to the “greatest trouble imaginable” to avoid committing such a sin. “No thicker darkness” clouds the soul than mortal sin: it produces nothing but “misery and filth,” bringing “endless and eternal evils in its train.” (IC 33-34)

6. The journey begins with forgiveness. We need to “beg” God to “deliver us” from such evil, and to redeem ourselves “in the blood of Christ,” so as to “remove the pitch which blackens the diamond.” (IC 35)

7. We enter the castle through prayer. Escaping the “snakes and other poisonous creatures” that live outside the castle, and redeemed by God’s boundless mercy, the soul enters the castle through prayer. “Souls without prayer are like people whose bodies and limbs are paralyzed.” (IC 31)

8. THE FIRST MANSION. Entering the first mansion through the practice of prayer, the soul needs to spend time in the rooms of “self-knowledge” and humility. In these rooms, the soul spends time meditating on its own “baseness” and God’s goodness, and turns from thinking about itself to setting its “eyes upon Christ, our Good,” lest the devil should deceive the soul once more to prefer sin to God. Teresa sternly warns the nuns she is writing to that “without humility all will be lost.” (IC 38)  To defend itself from the attractions of “worldly pleasure” and “worldly ambition,” as well as the deceptions of the devil, Saint Teresa advises the soul “to make the [Lord’s] blessed Mother” the soul’s “intercessor, and also His saints, so that these may do battle for the soul….” (IC 40)

NOTE: Mansions 1-3 correspond to the purgative stage of the journey (turning from sin to virtue); mansions 4-5 correspond to the illuminative stage of the journey (entering into supernatural prayer); and mansions 6-7 correspond to the unitive stage of the journey (spiritual betrothal and marriage). Additionally, mansions 1-3 correspond to the active part of the journey, where the soul is conscious of its own effort, supported by grace, to overcome sin and draw closer to God, whereas mansions 4-7 correspond to the passive part of the journey, where the soul becomes aware that God is acting upon it. (Reference: Mary E. Giles, 161; and as explained by Saint Teresa herself)

9. THE SECOND MANSION. In the second mansion the soul is growing in holiness through perseverance in prayer, conversations with good people, reading good books and listening to edifying sermons. The soul spends time in the room of the practice of prayer. The soul is moving farther into the castle as it purges its imperfections and grows in charity. It now has a greater desire for God. Here the devil begins to wage a fierce war against the soul, reminding the soul of the pleasures and honor the soul formerly experienced outside the castle. Consequently, for the soul to persevere, it is vital that the soul “flee evil companionship” and be willing to embrace suffering. The soul must not abandon prayer, and should immediately seek God’s mercy should it fall or stumble. (Intro. 11; IC 47)

By now the soul is advancing in prayer. Besides meditation, it is now learning how to concentrate the mind in order to effect recollection of the soul (the prayer of active recollection, IC 52). Teresa tells us that if we quietly speak to Him within our souls, He will hear us. She says, “The Lord is within us and we should be there with Him.” She further states that this prayer is “called recollection because the soul collects together all the faculties and enters within itself to be with its God.” The prayer of active recollection begins by the soul withdrawing the senses from all outward things, and thus consciously closing its eyes the soul looks inwardly to be with her King (God). We thus retire within ourselves to find God. This is not yet supernatural prayer since the soul’s own effort is crucial and controlling. Teresa explains in detail how to enter into this type of prayer in The Way of Perfection, chapters 28-29. Regarding this prayer, Teresa states:

 “I only beg you to test it, even at the cost of a little trouble. I assure you…you will find Him within you.”

Teresa recommends practicing this form of prayer for six months to a year, saying that once the “Lord has granted it, you will not exchange it for any treasure.” As a practical matter this exercise is best carried out in a quiet setting and in a prayerful posture. Then, after having recollected yourself, look inwardly and speak with your mind and heart to the infinitely good Father who dwells within (note: above paragraph based primarily on The Way of Perfection).

Note: Here we see a fundamental difference between meditation and mental prayer. We meditate using images and symbols, such as meditating on a Gospel scene. In mental prayer, the aim is to bypass mediated, symbolic knowledge and to seek direct contact with God in our soul. Meditation and active recollection are similar to the extent they involve primarily the soul’s own effort in prayer, whereas passive (supernatural) recollection involves God’s own action upon the soul. Thus, when I use the terms interior, mental, mystical or contemplative prayer, I am referring to what Saint Teresa calls the prayers of active and then passive recollection, all in contrast to meditative prayer. However, meditative prayer is still invaluable even when the soul begins to make progress in mental or interior prayer (moreover, meditation can effectively serve as a platform for interior prayer, having ignited a flame through reasoned considerations contained in a book, for example, so that the soul then seeks God inwardly).

Recommendation: If you begin the practice of interior prayer (active recollection, it is recommended that you do so in conjunction with a trustworthy and experienced spiritual director, in order to avoid pitfalls along the way.

10. THE THIRD MANSION.  Souls entering the third mansion have overcome their “initial difficulties” and are “most desirous not to offend His Majesty.” They “avoid committing even venial sins,” spend “hours in recollection” (prayer), practice “works of charity,” and are “very careful in their speech.” They “make good use of their lives and possessions.” They experience consolation and spiritual sweetness in prayer and meditation. They are living “upright and carefully ordered lives.”

However, a greater reward necessitates a greater love, and the souls in this mansion are still governed by reason: “their love is not yet ardent enough to overwhelm their reason.” They need to learn that “perfection consists not in consolations, but in the increase of love.” These souls have not yet made a “full surrender of their wills to God” (Intro. 12; IC 67). To increase the resoluteness of the soul’s will, God may allow it to experience long periods of aridity in prayer. Teresa tells her nuns not to panic when this happens, for God “knows well” how to test us. Such a test has the effect of making the soul conscious of its misery, to gain a “clearer perception of its shortcomings,” and to realize that it still has strong attractions to “earthly things.” This experience helps the soul to gain “a great deal of humility,” to learn the value of perseverance and suffering, and prepares the soul for the life of mystical prayer which will come in the fourth mansion.

11. THE FOURTH MANSION. Entrance into the fourth mansion marks a significant advancement in the soul’s journey to a greater and more profound intimacy with God. As Teresa states, “the soul is now getting nearer to the place where the King dwells.” The fourth mansion marks the transition from the purgative and active stage of the journey to the illuminative and passive stage. In short, in this mansion the soul is beginning to enter into supernatural prayer as the King (God) takes more direct action to communicate Himself to the soul.

It is in this mansion that Teresa explains the difference between active and passive recollection. The soul in the first three mansions was primarily involved in prayer that constituted active recollection. Active recollection involves the soul’s effort in prayer, such as choosing the time and place to pray, and consciously closing his eyes in order to turn within towards God. The soul may experience sweetness and consolation during this type of prayer, but these consolations are more akin to natural satisfactions than to God’s supernatural activity. However, in the fourth mansion the soul begins to experience for the first time two types of supernatural or mystical prayer, namely:

               1) The Prayer of Supernatural (or passive) Recollection; and

               2) The Prayer of Quiet

Teresa reminds us that the interior world of God is always close hand, and that if we continue to persevere in the practice of prayer, overcoming obstacles, trials and servile fear, a greater, disinterested love of the King will arise in the soul preparing it for the gift of supernatural prayer. If there is one point Teresa wants to make it is this: don’t abandon prayer. In the prayer of supernatural recollection, the soul “involuntarily closes his eyes and desires solitude,” not out of choice but because of God’s action upon the soul. The soul then begins to experience a “temple of solitude” being built around it, “like a hedgehog or a turtle withdrawn into itself. The senses and all external things seem to gradually lose their hold on him, while the soul, on the other hand, regains its lost control.” The soul cannot force this experience on God: it is a pure gift for which praise and thanksgiving is the appropriate response. This type of prayer is a form of contemplation or infused loving – as are the forms of mystical prayer in mansions 4-7. In short, mansions 1-3 correspond first to meditation and then to active recollection; mansions 4-7 correspond to contemplative prayer (or infused prayer). In active recollection we are like a man-made aqueduct that is miles away from the ocean; in contemplation we are tapped directly into the ocean (Saint Teresa’s metaphor).

The prayer of quiet is an even deeper form of recollection which comes directly from God. It is “accompanied by the greatest peace and quiet and sweetness within ourselves.” With “no effort the soul drinks directly from God” and experiences an incredible feeling of peace. “As this heavenly water begins to flow from this source…it proceeds to spread within us and cause an interior dilation and produce ineffable blessings.” The soul should not strive for this type of prayer, because God gives it when the “soul is not thinking of it at all.” Yet Teresa states that the Lord “will not fail to grant this favor” to the soul who reaches “true humility and detachment.”

12. THE FIFTH MANSION. Entering the fifth mansion, the soul is still in the illuminative stage of the journey. There are still “hidden treasures” in the castle. Teresa wonders how she will ever be able to explain the “riches and delights” found in the fifth mansion. She also tells us that many of her nuns make it to the lofty state of prayer found in this mansion.

The soul will now go even deeper in prayer – to unite herself to God in what is appropriately called The Prayer of Union. Some scholars call this prayer the prayer of incipient union or the prayer of the sleep of the faculties. Here the soul “falls asleep to the things of the world,” and in this sort of death becomes united to God. Thus the faculties are suspended, and there is virtually an unconsciousness, as the soul appears to have withdrawn from the body. The hallmark experience of this prayer is the certainty that, however short in duration, the soul was united to God. Teresa explains:

“God implants Himself in the interior of that soul in such a way that, when it returns to itself, it cannot possibly doubt              that God has been in it and it has been in God; so firmly does this truth remain within it that, although for years God may never grant it that favor again, it can never forget it or doubt that it has received it. This certainty of the soul is very material.”

Teresa compares the soul’s growth and progress (in a “celebrated analogy”) to the silkworm. This large and ugly worm appears to be almost dead in the winter, but when the warm weather comes it begins to feed on mulberry leaves, and then to spin silk from twigs on the ground, as it makes itself into a very tight cocoon. “Then, finally, the worm…comes right out of the cocoon a beautiful white butterfly.” Likewise, the soul spins its own cocoon through penance, prayer and mortification until it becomes hidden in God. When it becomes quite dead to the things of this world “it comes out a little white butterfly.”

Having experienced the prayer of union, the soul now has the most “vehement desire” for penance, solitude “and for all to know God.” It is overwhelmed for having “merited such a blessing.” The soul is now being prepared for the betrothal to the King which will take place in the sixth mansion. Teresa warns the soul to remain humble, for the “power of hell” is still capable of winning the soul back to sin. The soul is still susceptible to the perils of pride and self-delusion. Self-love must be crushed. The soul must keep her “eyes fixed on the King’s greatness,” and grow in love. “Love is never idle.” The soul must keep advancing.

13. THE SIXTH MANSION.  Entrance into the sixth mansion marks the transition from the illuminative stage of the journey to the unitive stage. The soul has fallen deeply in love with the King, and is now ready for spiritual betrothal to Him. However, the journey through the sixth mansion will not be without danger and affliction, and to persevere the soul will have to suffer much. “Oh, my God,” Teresa laments, “how great are these trials which the soul will suffer, both within and without, before it enters the seventh mansion.”

Still, the suffering to be experienced by the soul in the sixth mansion will be counter-balanced by many mystical experiences the soul undergoes of a truly amazing nature. It is in the sixth mansion that the soul begins to experience extraordinary mystical phenomena that one associates with some of the great saints like Padre Pio and John Bosco. These experiences of God, which Teresa is recounting from personal experience, include:





            -tearful desire to be taken out of this earthly exile

            – flights of the spirit, and

            – jubilations

             (IC 139-157)

Teresa explains these experiences in significant detail (there are eleven chapters describing the sixth mansion), but cautions the soul not to rely on them for the fear the soul might think too highly of itself or even become delusional. Yet it is in these raptures that the King speaks secretly to the soul and the soul “becomes consumed with desire” for the King, “so clearly conscious is it of the presence of its God.” These ecstatic visits from the King constitute, in essence, an engagement period prior to the spiritual marriage which will take place in the seventh mansion.

Mixed in with these ecstatic experiences are terrible times of suffering. In mansion three the King tested the soul’s resolve by subjecting it to a profound period of aridity. Passing this test, the soul moved on to mansion four, entering the illuminative stage and experiencing infused prayer. To enter into mansion seven the soul is going to have to withstand even greater hardships. These hardships include physical illness, depression and persecutions, and even seemingly insignificant trials like backbiting and undeserved praise (Intro. 13). Teresa tells the soul that some of these sufferings are “comparable only with the tortures of hell.” And yet the soul bears it all because of her intense love for the King.

Teresa calms the soul by encouraging her not to neglect meditative prayer. The soul is not to restrict itself to contemplative or infused prayer. It is beneficial that the soul meditate on the sacred humanity of Jesus, on the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on the lives of the saints.

Teresa is really making a very important philosophical point: that the world of supernatural prayer cannot be separated from the categorical world of time and space. Thus, practicing meditative prayer keeps the soul grounded in reality and protected from delusion. This is a practical warning from Teresa that the soul should not chase after mystical phenomena unless it is firmly rooted in the historical faith of Christianity.

The soul in the sixth mansion has been on a roller-coaster ride, experiencing the highs of many phenomenal mystical experiences and the lows of many trials and afflictions. She has proven to her beloved that, like a faithful marriage partner, she will stay with Him in good times and in bad. She has weathered the storm and is ready to enter the peaceful confines of the seventh mansion.

14. THE SEVENTH MANSION. When the soul comes to the seventh mansion, she enters into spiritual marriage with her bridegroom, the King. The soul has penetrated to the very center of itself “where His Majesty alone dwells.” Teresa refers to this place in the soul as a “second Heaven.”

The soul “is brought into this mansion by means of an intellectual vision” where the “Most Holy Trinity reveals Itself in all three Persons. Here all three Persons communicate Themselves to the soul and speak to the soul” (IC 209). Teresa is, no doubt, recounting here what she experienced when she entered the seventh mansion. She indicates that in addition to this experience she also was granted a vision of Jesus “in great splendor, beauty and majesty” after receiving communion. Jesus spoke to her at that moment.

There are many wonderful effects produced in the soul as a result of this spiritual marriage. These include:

     – a “self-forgetfulness which is so complete that it really seems as though the soul no longer entirely is she employed seeking the honor of God”

     – there is produced in the soul “a great desire to suffer” and the soul bears no “enmity to those who ill-treat them”

     – the soul has a “marked detachment from everything,” experiences “no aridities or interior trials,” but always maintains a “tender love” for the Lord, wanting always to give “Him praise”

    – the soul experiences almost constant “tranquility”

    – the soul has “no lack of crosses,” but they do not “unsettle” the soul’s peace

    – the soul “loses its fear” and acquires great “strength” to serve the Lord and the Church

    – the soul is ready to bear any cross for the love of the Bridegroom

    – the soul experiences the almost constant “presence” of the Bridegroom

      (IC 210-231)

Teresa returns to the image of the silkworm to help describe the transformation the soul has undergone in the seventh mansion. This worm, which after much toil and labor, emerged from its cocoon as a beautiful white butterfly (in the fifth mansion), “dies, and with the greatest joy, because Christ is now its life.” The soul is now “endowed with the life of God.”

St. Paul’s exclamation, “I have been crucified with Christ, I live, not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:19-20), is illustrative of what has happened to the soul. In fact, Teresa points to Paul as a preeminent example of this total transformation in Christ, for having so completely united himself to the Lord through visions, prayer and contemplation, he was ready to suffer “terrible trials” for the Lord, never remaining idle.

Teresa ends her book by reminding her nuns that prayer is not a thing in and of itself, as if for personal enjoyment and to satisfy a quest for mystical phenomena. Rather, prayer is necessary to acquire the strength that makes one fit for service, and to lead souls to God. She also reminds her nuns that humility is the foundation of the interior castle. “Without humility all will be lost” (IC 229, 37).

Saint Teresa finished writing Interior Castle in 1557 “on the vigil of St. Andrew.”

15.  Five crucial points made by Saint Teresa in Interior Castle:

1) God is always near. He dwells within the soul (“for the Spirit of God dwells within you”  – Romans 8:9);

2) Prayer is absolutely, unequivocally indispensable, with humility and self-knowledge (knowledge of my weakness and God’s Infinite Goodness) being the foundation of prayer;

3) All harm comes to us when we fail to realize that God is near; therefore, DO NOT take your gaze off of Jesus, the King of your soul;

4) The spiritual journey, although sustained by grace, demands intense effort, including detachment, mortification and perseverance, as well as patience, as the soul waits for God to act on it (desire for God is crucial); and

5) Progress on the spiritual journey is not only possible and desirable, but is also necessary.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Saint Teresa of Jesus by Alonso del Arco (1635-1704), circa 1700, Public Domain, U.S.A.

References: I am relying primarily on the text of Interior Castle itself, including the Introduction by E. Allison Peers (Image Books); and the essay on Teresa of Avila by Mary E. Giles in Great Thinkers of the Western World (HarperCollins); and The Way of Perfection by Saint Teresa of Avila (Image Books); and Ralph Martin’s  audio presentation on Saint Teresa available at Regarding 15.4 above, Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, “[Although] the journey is totally sustained by grace, it nonetheless demands an intense spiritual commitment” (NMI 32).

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“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God….” (John 1:12)

Jesus led an affirmed life. This is an important point: for to affirm others Jesus had to be affirmed himself. Thus we see that after Jesus’ baptism the Father in Heaven first calls Jesus “my beloved” and then adds my “son, in whom I am well pleased” (see Matt: 3:17). Jesus’ mission of affirming others came from the fact that he was first of all an affirmed person. Since Mary was a human being fully alive in the Holy Spirit it was impossible for Jesus not to be touched by her affirming presence.

We see throughout the Gospels the tremendous and extraordinary power Jesus possessed to affirm others! People in the presence of the most dire circumstances suddenly find their lives transformed by the dynamic, affirming presence of Jesus. Whether it be the woman at the well, Zacchaeus (the dishonest tax collector), the woman caught in adultery, the man who came to Jesus through an opening in the roof, or the immoral woman who dried Jesus’ feet with her hair, Jesus is authentically open to them, he makes time for them, he affirms and does not condemn them, and ultimately he liberates them from the tyranny of sin. Thus, as one example, he says to the woman caught in adultery: “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11). And Zacchaeus comes away from his encounter with Jesus vowing to make restitution to all those he has defrauded (Luke 19:8).

We thus see that Jesus, who is the supreme exemplar of authentic Christian affirmation, had a remarkable way of being open to others and giving to them the gift of discovering their own inner goodness and of receiving themselves as children of God. Jesus’ method of affirming others involves a liberation from sin rather than an acceptance of sin. Jesus does not condone sin – rather he frees, he heals, he liberates. Authentic affirmation, therefore, does not, as Catholic psychiatrist C.W. Baars points out, consist in “lowering moral standards and precepts with a mistaken notion that this will help people to become happier….” Thus, to try to affirm someone by telling them that pornography is OK, or that illicit sexuality is OK, or that vulgar language is OK, contradicts the Jesus method of affirmation. Jesus never, ever compromises the moral law to affirm someone.  Thus, as mentioned,  Jesus authentically affirmed the woman caught in adultery by his forgiving presence, and by directing her to a “life of purity” (“go and sin no more,” John 8:11).

In contrast, many people have raised a red flag about the so called Pope Francis mercy. They note that “Francis mercy” has a different taste, so to speak, than the Divine Mercy spoken of in Saint Faustina’s Diary (where the consequences and gravity of sin are mentioned in a very serious manner) and brought prominently to our attention by Saint John Paul II. If this characterization of Francis mercy goes too far, it at least serves to demonstrate the profound concern many have about it.

If Pope Francis wants to bring to the Communion rail people who are in situations that profoundly contradict Catholic moral teaching, then it is incumbent upon faithful Catholics to point out that such a sentimental type of mercy is dramatically at odds with infallible Catholic doctrine that states that a person in mortal sin cannot receive Holy Communion (see CCC 1385). Anyone, including a Pope, who holds Catholic moral teaching to be an “ideal,” rather than the norm, has missed the mark regarding the true Catholic understanding of grace and justification infallibly promulgated at Trent and enshrined in the Catechism (see CCC 1987 thru 2005; see 1989, which reads, “The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. ‘Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man’ “).

God the Father in Heaven affirmed Jesus once again during Jesus’ Transfiguration, saying, “This is my son, My Chosen one, listen to him” (Luke 9:35).  Jesus is our model. He shows us the authentic Christian method of affirmation. Let us listen to him!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. I am relying almost exclusively on a beautiful little book entitled, Born Only Once: The Miracle of Affirmation, by Dr. Conrad W. Baars. Everything in this note flows from Dr. Baars’ book, and I have merely presented some of his ideas in a condensed manner.

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(Jesus talking to Nicodemus in John, Chapter 3)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his his only-begotten Son,  that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God’s love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love [us so much].” (Matthew Henry Bible Commentary on John 3:16)

Since John 3:16 is often considered the most powerful verse in the Bible, it only makes sense – at least once in our lives – to make it the subject of a profound and personal meditation. The purpose of this note, in fact, is to urge you to do so – to make time in your life for a John 3:16 meditation. Let the Holy Spirit convince you to make this meditation, and to enrich you by it (perhaps in a most incredible way).

Here is a format I propose for such a meditation.

1. Materials.  All you need to have with you is the verse itself (John 3:16) on a sheet of paper – nothing more. You are focusing only on this verse.

2. Location.  It is absolutely crucial you go somewhere special and quiet – ideally some place out in nature that places you in the majestic presence of God. Keep in mind that silence is a critical part of this meditation (interruptions need to be avoided). Even being alone in your parked car or room, especially when no one else is around, will work.

3. Body of Meditation (after having placed yourself in the presence of God, and having asked the Holy Spirit to make the meditation profitable to you).   A. Read John 3:16 slowly and silently as many times as you may want, letting the message and meaning of the verse enter into your heart. Go as slowly as you want.  B. Acknowledge in the depths of your heart God’s amazing love for you by sending his Son to save you.  C. Silently in your heart make any other considerations about this powerful verse that come to mind.  D. Wait silently upon the Holy Spirit to give you additional supernatural insight – grace filled insight – about this all-important verse in God’s word, and then spend time in silent, personal conversation with Jesus, sharing your heart with him and letting Him share his heart with you (receptive listening flows from being silently recollected in God’s presence).

4. Praise.  Acknowledge and adore Jesus as your Lord and Redeemer. It is permissible in meditation to use your imagination to visualize Jesus on the cross dying for the sins of the world, and to give him praise for loving you that much.

5. Thanksgiving.  Profoundly thank the Eternal Father for having sent his Son to save you.

6. Conclusion.  Resolve to make Jesus (even more) the center of your life in all that you do.

Scripture has an immense power, as the great spiritual writer F.W. Faber relates, to sanctify our souls and draw us closer to God.  John 3:16 is destined to do “a good work in your soul.”

Praise God!

Thomas L. Mulcahy

Image: Jesus and Nicodemus by William Brassey Hole (1846-1917). Public Domain, U.S.A. (at Wikipedia).

Reference: 3B above is verbatim from the commentary of The Ignatius Catholic Bible. Father Faber uses the expression, will “do a good work in your soul.” See also the following post which emphasizes that meditation provides a platform, or starting point, for deep and intimate conversation with God:


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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.

Image: Divine Mercy Image. From Wikipedia: “Original painting of the Divine Mercy (by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934). This is the only painting which was done under the indications of Sister Faustina when she was still alive, unlike the painting by Adolf Hyła which was done in 1943 after Saint Faustina’s death in 1938 but still the most known.” AUTHOR: By HistoryisResearch, April 4, 2016. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.


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 beautiful picture you are looking at is known as “The Irish Madonna of Hungary.” The portrait itself is from Ireland, but it was brought to Hungary by an Irish priest, Bishop Lynch, who was fleeing English persecution in Ireland around the year 1652. Bishop Lynch worked for ten years among the faithful in Hungary, and just before he was about to return to Ireland he fell ill and died, bequeathing  on his deathbed the portrait in question to the Bishop of Gyor in Hungary who hung the painting in the Cathedral of Gyor. The awesome miracle I am about to discuss involves this picture.

The miracle in question did in fact occur on March 17, 1697 (St. Patrick’s Day) while “thousands were attending Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Gyor” (the year 1697 is highly relevant because in 1697 all priests were expelled from Ireland).

Suddenly “the eyes of the Madonna [in the picture above] began to shed tears and blood which ran down the canvas to the image of the sleeping Jesus. The Irish Madonna was weeping for her suffering children [in Ireland]. The people who had been attending [Mass], as well as those summoned to witness the miracle, took turns in gathering around the portrait while the priests repeatedly wiped the face of the Madonna with a linen cloth that is still preserved in the Cathedral. The miracle continued for more than three hours.”

Every lawyer knows the value of credible witnesses! Here then we see that this miracle was witnessed by a whole contingent of extremely credible witnesses. Joann Carroll Cruz relates the following: “Before long not only Catholics, but also Protestants and Jews flocked to see the miracle. Thousands witnessed the event, and many of these gave testimony of what they saw. A document signed by a hundred people bears the signatures of the governor of the city, its mayor, all its councilmen, the bishop, priests, Calvinist and Lutheran ministers as well as a Jewish rabbi. All volunteered their signatures to the document stating they had witnessed an undeniable miracle.”

I would like to dedicate this post to the memory of Thomas Joseph Mulcahy, my Father, who was the Grand Marshall for the 2003 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Detroit (see photo below). Thanks Dad for your profound devotion to Irish culture and the Catholic faith. Our Lady of the Irish Madonna of Hungary, pray for Tom.


Saint Patrick, Patron of Ireland, pray for us!

Thomas L. Mulcahy


Reference: For this note I am relying on pages 130-132 of Joan Carroll Cruz’s book, Miraculous Images of Our Lady (TAN), as edited. A short history of some of my Dad’s contributions to the Irish-American heritage are recorded in the book, Modern Journeys: The Irish in Detroit, published by the United Irish Societies.

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“To have a gathering heart, a heart in which we know what happens, and here and there you can perform a practice as old as the Church, but good: the examination of conscience. Who of us, at night, at the end of the day, remains by himself, by herself, and asks the question: what happened today in my heart? What happened? What things have passed through my heart? If we don’t do this, we have truly failed to know how to watch and guard [our hearts] well.”  (Homily of Pope Francis)

Even though all the great spiritual writers speak of the vital importance importance of making a nightly examination of conscience, I sense from my own experience that this is one of the easiest spiritual practices to omit. Here is a method of examination of conscience I am proposing that you may find useful and even attractive since it simply utilizes 1 Corinthians 13 – a meditation on the virtue of charity –  as the blueprint for your nightly examination of conscience. And at the end of our lives, as Saint John of the Cross tells us, we will be judged by whether we loved.

1 Corinthians 13 is also attractive for a nightly examination of conscience because Scripture is attractive. Utilizing scripture for growth in holiness immerses us in the POWER of God’s own word, and without our even realizing it increases our love for God. And what could be more important to us than that!


Preliminarily: Ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to make the examination profitable for you. Then place yourself  in the presence of God. Now, reflect on the following considerations about love applying them very specifically to your life for the day in question you have just finished living:

From 1 Cor. 13: 4-7, 13

 1.   Love is patient. 
Was I patient today? Did I commit any acts of  impatience?
2.   Love is kind. 
Was I kind to every person I met today? Did I fail in kindness?
3.   Love does not envy.
Did I envy something that somebody else has and I don’t? 
4.   Love does not boast.   
(The questions to ask yourself are thus self-evident).
5.   Love is not proud.
6.   Love does not dishonor others.
7.   Love is not self-seeking
8.   Love is not easily angered.
9.   Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.
11. Love protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
12. Love never fails.
13. And now these three remain: faith in God, hope in God and love of God and neighbor. But the greatest of these is love.


You probably keep a Bible by your bed, so you can simply open it up to 1 Corinthians 13 when you retire at night and read and reflect through it for your nightly examination of conscience. Notice how St. Paul tells us that “love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth”; it is important for us to examine whether the culture is in any way leading us away from the truth. Naturally, end your examination of conscience with a firm purpose of amendment and with a prayer of thanksgiving for the graces received from the examination.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Note: Justin Fatica mentioned using 1 Corinthians 13 for an examination of conscience while I was at Catholic Familyland. For two profound discussions on the power of kindness, see Father  Faber’s famous essay on kindness in Spiritual Conferences, and Father Lovasik’s book, The Hidden Power of Kindness. “Love is kind.” Kindness is a powerful virtue.  “In the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (St. John of the Cross; see CCC 1022).

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