Month: June 2018


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pray for the Church. Pray steadfastly for the Church.

P.S. Here are links to both articles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

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“I could never separate the devotion to the Heart of Jesus from the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and I will never be able to explain how and how much the Sacred Heart of Jesus deigned to favor me in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist” (Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart).


This short outline of the life of  Blessed Maria (or Mary) of the Divine Heart is derived from and based on Ann Ball’s short biography of her in Modern Saints (TAN), and also from the Wikipedia article on Blessed Maria. This saint (she is beatified) shows us how much Jesus desires consecration to His Sacred Heart. The story which follows is a powerful incentive to consecrate yourself and your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

A short portrait of Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart:

1. Blessed Maria Droste Zu Vischering, 1863-1899, was a Catholic nun known as “Maria of the Divine Heart.”

2. She was born to a wealthy family in Germany, and upon attending boarding school at the Sisters of the Sacred Heart (at age 15), she began to understand “that the love of the Sacred Heart without a spirit of sacrifice is but empty illusion.”

3. According to Wikipedia, “While at school, she contracted pneumonia and shortly before her eighteenth birthday, returned home to recover. In 1883, at the chapel of the Castle of Darfeld, Maria is said to have had an interior locution of Jesus Christ who said her: ‘Thou shalt be the wife of My Heart’. On 5 August of that same year, on the Silver Jubilee of her parents’ marriage, Maria told them of her desire to become a religious.”

4. Maria joined the Sisters of Charity of the Good Shepherd and made her final vows on January 29, 1891 at age 27. She received the name Maria of the Divine Heart.

5. She had considerable success as a youth worker with young girls, and “attributed all her success in her apostolate to the Heart of our Lord.”She stated: “Only the Heart of Jesus is responsible for the success I always had with the girls….When you are appealing to His Divine Heart for a soul, He will never refuse you, although sometimes He demands much prayer, sacrifice and suffering.”

6. In her mystical life, while Superior of the Convent of the Good Shepherd in Oporto , Portugal , Jesus told her of His wish to consecrate the entire world to His Sacred Heart, and directed her to make this wish known to Pope Leo XIII.

7. Sister Maria “had predicted that she would die as soon as the consecration was accomplished.”

8. According to Wikipedia:

“On June 10, 1898, her superior at the Good Shepherd monastery wrote to Pope Leo XIII stating that Sister Mary had received a message from Christ, requesting the pope to consecrate the entire world to the Sacred Heart. The pope initially did not believe her and took no action. However, on January 6, 1899 she wrote another letter, asking that in addition to the consecration, the first Fridays of the month be observed in honor of the Sacred Heart. In the letter she also referred to the recent illness of the pope and stated that Christ had assured her that Pope Leo XIII would live until he had performed the consecration to the Sacred Heart. Theologian Laurent Volken states that this had an emotional impact on Leo XIII, despite the theological issues concerning the consecration of non-Christians.

Pope Leo XIII commissioned an inquiry on the basis of her revelation and Church tradition. In his 1899 encyclical letter Annum Sacrum, Leo XIII decreed that the consecration of the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should take place on June 11, 1899. In the same encyclical, Pope Leo XIII referred to the illness about which Sister Mary had written, stating: ‘There is one further reason that urges us to realize our design; We do not want it to pass by unnoticed. It is personal in nature but just as important: God the author of all Good has saved us by healing us recently from a dangerous disease’.”

Pope Leo XIII also composed the Prayer of Consecration to the Sacred Heat, and included it in Annum Sacrum. Pope Pius X later decreed that this consecration of the human race, performed by Pope Leo XIII, be renewed each year.”

9. “On June 8, 1899 , two copies of the encyclical were personally delivered to her [Sister Maria], and at 3:05 pm [on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, according to Wikipedia, although not confirmed by Ann Ball] she quietly gave her soul to God.”

10. “On June 11, 1899, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire human race to the Heart of Jesus.”

11. “Pope Leo XIII called  this consecration ‘the greatest act of my pontificate’. “

12. Sister Maria was declared Venerable in 1964, and was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

13. Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart, intercede for and share with us your great love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. According to Wikipedia, “Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart’s incorrupt body is exposed for public veneration in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Ermesinde, in northern Portugal.”

Image: Image and caption at Wikipedia (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Book RecommendationThe Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: How to Practice the Sacred Heart Devotion by Rev, John Croiset (TAN Books).


Men Of The Sacred Hearts: Home Enthronement To The Sacred Heart .

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“Behold this Heart which has so loved men….” (Jesus speaking to Saint Margaret Mary)

As Saint Margaret Mary was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus said to her: “My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning Charity, It must needs spread them abroad by your means, and manifest Itself to them (mankind) in order to enrich them with the precious graces of sanctification and salvation….”

As I was venting with my prayer group one morning, there is almost a sadness to this devotion: the Lord Jesus, in essence, pleading with us to love him, begging us to love Him; and then letting us know, through the image of His Sacred Heart, how ardently, how passionately, how intensely He loves us. What a Savior! To melt our coldness, to counteract our indifference, He pleads with us to look at His Sacred Heart –  all aglow with a burning love for humanity –  and to fall in love with He who should be everything to us. I remember once, when I had a Mustang GT convertible, I used to stare at it in the garage: I was in love with that car. Oh, if only I could transfer my love of material things to the Lord Jesus: to Him who is infinitely good and should be the very “sunshine of my life.” If I really knew how to value what is true and lasting, how much more would I love Him?

About the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Father Faber states:

“Jesus belongs to us….He loves us with a love no words can tell. He condescends … with a longing which is equally indescribable, that we should love Him with a fervent and entire love. He has kept nothing back from us. There is no faculty of His human soul which has not had to do with our salvation. There is not one limb of His Sacred body that has not suffered for us. There is not one drop of His most Precious Blood that He has not shed for us, nor is there one beating of His Sacred Heart that is not an act of love toward us”  (slightly adapted from All for Jesus).

Jesus apparently instituted this devotion to get us to love Him! He wanted to remind us via the image of His Sacred Heart that He loves us with an unsurpassable love. He is through this devotion showing us His love for us, so as to woo us to love Him. What a Savior! Is it not a little sad, a touch lamentable, that He has to go to such lengths to get us to love Him. For some reason, for some choice made by the Eternal Trinity, no doubt in view of the Incarnation and Jesus being loved by the Virgin, He has chosen to need our love. Imagine that: God needs our love! Amazing, but true.

And, of course, the true goal of the Sacred Heart devotion is Eucharistic love, for that is where the Sacred Heart truly beats moment by moment with love for us! One cannot exaggerate the immensity of graces available in the Eucharist.

If this great Lord is wooing us to love Him in the Eucharist, shall we refuse the invitation? What if each one of us was to offer to Jesus one hour of adoration every two weeks? Oh how on the day we give the account will we be grateful for having done so. We will know Jesus. He will recognize us! Devotion to the Sacred Heart came first to Saint Gertrude the Great. The Lord revealed to her, as Faber relates, “that as often as a man gazes with desire and devotion on the Host, where the body of Christ lies hidden sacramentally, so often does he increase his merit in Heaven.” The time is short. Don’t delay. He’s waiting.

Praise the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image Attribution: Per Wikipedia, “Detail of a stained glass window in the east wall of the south transept, depicting Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and how she received a revelation of the Sacred Heart” (located in The Cathedral Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tuam, Ireland). Designed and manufactured by Joshua Clarke (1858–1921) and the Harry Clarke Studios (1889–1931). Self-photographed on 9/14/ 2009 by Andreas F. Borchert; this file is used and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

Note: An excellent book on how to practice the Sacred Heart devotion is The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Father John Croiset (TAN). Highly recommended.

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“Those who are able thus to enclose themselves within the little heaven of their soul where dwells the Creator of both heaven and earth, and who can accustom themselves not to look at anything nor to remain in any place which would preoccupy their exterior senses, may feel sure that they are traveling by an excellent way, and that they will certainly attain to drink of the water from the fountain, for they will journey far in a short time” (Saint Teresa of Avila)


By supernatural prayer I mean the infused, loving contemplation of God which God bestows upon the soul as a grace through an experimental knowledge of His presence, although there are many levels of this contemplative union with God. This is a grace that, strictly speaking, cannot be merited, but we can prepare for it through the practice of virtue, a profound sacramental life, the practice of prayer, and acceptance of the passive purifications God sends to us in order to rid us of the many defects we cannot overcome by our own effort. These few words do not do justice to the profound purification a soul goes through before God grants the grace of supernatural prayer. Still, all those in sanctifying grace are called to this lofty state.

Thus Father Garrigou-Lagrange states:

“….far from being essentially extraordinary, the mystical life alone, which is characterized by the reality of the quasi-experimental knowledge of God present in us, is completely normal. Only the saints, all of whom live this sort of life, are fully in order. Before experiencing this intimate union with God present in us, we are somewhat like souls still half-asleep, souls not yet spiritually awakened. Our knowledge of the consoling mystery of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity is still too superficial and bookish, and yet overflowing life is offered to us.”

One particular prayer that helps to prepare us for the gift of supernatural prayer is the Prayer of Simplicity. To that end, let us first review the various stages of prayer in their proper – or at least conceptual –  order. “These grades [of prayer] are (1) vocal prayer, (2) meditation, (3) affective prayer, (4) prayer of simplicity, (5) infused contemplation, (6) prayer of quiet, (7) prayer of union, (8) prayer of conforming union, and (9) prayer of transforming union. The first four grades belong to the predominantly ascetical stage of the spiritual life; the remaining five grades are infused [supernatural] prayer and belong to the mystical phase of the spiritual life” (Father Jordan Aumann, O.P.).

So you see from the list above that the prayer of simplicity is the last level of ordinary prayer just prior to the beginning of supernatural prayer which begins in number five above under the name of infused contemplation. The very beginning of supernatural prayer normally involves faint touches of the infused contemplation of God – which is nevertheless a true and experimental knowledge of God. The prayer of simplicity, being a prayer of active, interior recollection helps to prepare us for this transition from ascetical prayer to infused prayer, should God be disposed to grant it to us.


Sometimes when I drive on a long trip with my wife we engage in long and productive conversations. At other times during such trips, for example when she is reading a book and I’m driving, I will simply glance over at her, and her back at me, and we both know that all is well between us and nothing more needs to be said. In like manner, the prayer of simplicity is a movement from long meditations about God to a simple glance upon Him. This is fundamentally why it is called the prayer of simplicity.

Father Grou, one of the great writers on prayer, states:

“The true devout man is a man of prayer, whose sole delight is to be with God, and to speak with Him, and who scarcely ever loses his sense of the presence of God. Not that he is always thinking of God for that is impossible here below but because he is always united to God in his heart, and is guided in everything by His Spirit. To pray, he has no need of a book, or of a method, or of great efforts of the head or even of the will. He has only to retire quietly into himself; there he finds God, there he finds peace, sometimes a peace full of joy, sometimes a peace in spite of dryness, but always a deep and real peace. He prefers the prayer in which he gives much to God, and in which he suffers, the prayer in which self-love is undermined gradually, until it can find nothing to feed upon; in short, a simple prayer, denuded of all images or of perceptible feelings, and of all those things which the soul can remark or experience in other kinds of prayer” (from Manual For Interior Souls).

Father Garrigou-Lagrange adds:

“In proportion as the soul grows, the acts of humility, faith, hope… tend, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, to fuse in a gaze of ardent love. Hence a simple method, useful at the beginning, should gradually give place to docility to the Holy Ghost, who breathes where He will. Prayer thus tends to become a prolonged spiritual communion, as the peasant of Ars, whom we quoted above, defined it: ‘I look at our Lord, and He looks at me.’ The prayerful soul says much in a few words, which he often says over and over without ever repeating himself. This prolonged spiritual communion is like the breathing of the soul or its repose in God; by faith and hope it breathes in the truth and goodness of God, and it breathes out love. What the soul receives from God under the form of ever new graces, it gives back to Him under the form of adoration and love.

Consequently, to ask for the grace of Christian contemplation is to ask that the bandage of pride, which still covers the eyes of the spirit, may fall away completely in order that we may be able truly to penetrate and taste the great mysteries of salvation: that of the sacrifice of the cross perpetuated by the Mass, that of the sacrament of the Eucharist, the food of our soul.

Surely without any danger of quietism, [the great spiritual writer] Bossuet invites us to this simplified affective prayer in his substantial little work, A Short and  Simple Manner of making our Prayer in the Spirit of Faith, and in the Simple Presence of God.” I have taken the liberty of editing this famous and important essay of Bossuet and substantially reducing it in size to the following six salient points:

1.”We must accustom ourselves to nourish our souls with a simple and loving look at God and at Jesus Christ our Lord. To do this we must withdraw our souls gently from all reasoning, from all arguments, and from a multiplicity of affections, to keep them in simplicity, respect, and attention, and thus to draw nearer and nearer to God, our only Sovereign Good, our first beginning and our last end.

2. Meditation is very good in its proper time, and very useful in the beginning of the spiritual life. But we must not stop there, since the soul, by her fidelity to mortification and recollection, generally receives the gift of a purer and higher state of prayer, which we may call the prayer of simplicity, because it consists of one simple look of ours, one loving attention on our part, towards God (in His Infinite perfections) or Jesus Christ (in some of his mysteries).

3. The soul, then, leaving all reasoning, makes us of a sweet contemplation, which keeps her in peace, attentive and susceptible to all the Divine operations and impressions which the Holy Spirit communicates to her. She does little, and receives much; her labor is sweet, and nevertheless it is very fruitful; and as she now approaches nearer to the Source of all light, of all grace, and of all virtue, blessings also increase in her more and more.

4. The practice of this kind of prayer must begin by our making an act of faith in the presence of God. After this, we need not try to produce several other dispositions, but we may remain simply and peacefully attentive to the presence of God, knowing that his Divine looks are fixed upon us, and continuing this devout attention as long as the Lord gives us the grace to do so; for this prayer is a prayer with God alone, so that the less the creature labors the more powefully God works in her. And since the work of God is always a rest and a deep peace, the soul becomes in this kind of prayer in a manner like unto Him, and receives also most wonderful effects from His Divine Goodness.

5. The soul might imagine at first she is loosing a great deal by omitting all these acts, but experience will teach her that, on the contrary, she is gaining very much, because the greater her knowledge of God is, the purer will be her love.

6. The best prayer of all is that in which we abandon ourselves most to the feelings and dispositions which God Himself implants in the soul, and in which we study with the greatest simplicity, humility, and fidelity to conform ourselves to the will and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Regarding this prayer of simplicity, Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey states: “This prayer got its clear and expressive name from Bossuet. When it has reached its more simplified form, others call it the prayer of simple look [or] active recollection. This simple look is always accompanied with love – a love, it may be, almost imperceptible or all on fire, calm or impetuous, bitter or savoury. This love is even that which is the chief thing of contemplation. Thus the soul, ceasing ‘to meditate – that is, to produce acts by dint of reasoning,’ thinks simply on God ‘by an attention, loving, simple, and fixed solely upon its object, almost like that of one who opens his eyes to give a loving look’ ” (The Way of Mental Prayer, pages 191-195, quoting St. John of the Cross, as edited).


Practicing the prayer of simplicity is hardly an invitation to abandon other forms of prayer, although by such practice our vocal prayers may become more interior, our meditations more simplified, our Rosary paused during a mystery simply to unite ourselves to Jesus in that mystery, and our liturgical prayer made in closer union with God. But the real purpose of practicing the prayer of simplicity is to draw closer to God – not so much through knowledge about God but to God Himself by an inward gaze of loving contemplation. In this prayer of simplicity we stand in awe of the God who resides within our soul, loving Him, and resting in His incomprehensible and amazing presence. “The soul does little, but receives much” – because it is so close to the Source of all goodness, whose love is transformative like no other.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The quotes from Father Garrigou-Lagrange are from The Three Ages of the Interior Life. The full essay of Bossuet is an appendix in Father Grou’s masterpiece, Manual For Interior Souls.

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(The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the remedy for everything)

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

“For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16)

Although we are made in the image and likeness of God (which is quite amazing if you think about it), our desire for spiritual and eternal goods has been greatly diminished by original sin and the threefold corruption it has worked into our hearts. This threefold corruption is specifically mentioned in the New Testament by Saint John as:

 1. The Concupiscence of the flesh

2. The Concupiscence of the eyes; and

3. The Pride of Life

(1 John 2:16) (see also CCC 405, “an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”)

According to Father Garrigou-LaGrange these “three wounds ravage souls and bring death to them by turning them away from God” (p.208). Prior to original sin man enjoyed a threefold harmony:

1. Harmony between God and my soul

2. Harmony between my soul and my body; and

3. Harmony between my body and the goods of the world (p. 208)

Sin seriously damaged this threefold harmony and knocked everything out of whack! Now the body lusts against the spirit for forbidden gratifications and a life of ease and pleasure (concupiscence of the flesh), and our hearts are attracted to and desire an over-abundance of the world’s goods and delights (concupiscence of the eyes), and finally we unjustly see self rather than God as the highest good to be pursued (and this is PRIDE since God, not self, is the Infinite Good and our true end). (See The Spiritual Life by Father Tanquerey beginning at page 101 and Father Garrigou-LaGrange, pages 206-210)

What can we do to overcome the threefold corruption of concupiscence which so mars the threefold harmony which God intended for us? The solution is found in the practice of the three Evangelical Counsels of CHASTITY, POVERTY AND OBEDIENCE. Jesus Christ was “radically consecrated to God” and “separated from the spirit of the world” (p. 210). His perfect chastity restored the harmony lost by the concupiscence of the flesh; His perfect poverty and detachment from the things of this world restored the harmony lost by the concupiscence of the eyes; His perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father unto death restored the harmony lost by the Pride of Life (pages 210-213). Thus it is that a consecrated religious takes vows of Chastity (celibacy), Poverty and Obedience in order to imitate Jesus and restore the original harmony between God, man and the the goods of this world.

All Catholics can and should try to live by the spirit of the Evangelical counsels, practicing chastity according to their state in life, poverty through the practice of detachment and generosity, and obedience by fully honoring all of the teachings of the Catholic Church. By chastity we consecrate our bodies and hearts to God; by poverty we consecrate our goods to God; and by obedience we consecrate our intellect and will to God (p. 212). These three virtues of chastity, poverty and obedience are implicit in our Baptism, and are strengthened and fortified by the complimentary sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. They should also be a special object of our prayers.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Reference: I have carved this short note entirely out of Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s treatise, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I, Chapter 13, “Perfection and the Evangelical Counsels,” pages 206-213. Consult same for a more in depth and adequate explanation.

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