Month: September 2019

A MYSTICAL EXCURSION INTO NATURE

 

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

The child easily experiences joy because she enjoys what is simple. We live in a world of the multiplicity of things and images, which causes a certain overload of life to come down upon us and impedes joy. Contact with nature can lead us back to this child-like simplicity and joy, if we learn to see anew.

Father Irala laments that many of us fail to have “clear sensations” of the beauty of the external world. “Only rarely,” he says, “do we come out into the exterior world, beautiful and joyful as it was created by God.” We are preoccupied, worried, and caught up in our own subjective world. Some people even find it difficult to put down their cell phones as they walk along a beautiful nature trail.

The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber tells this tale: “Rabbi Mendel once boasted to his teacher Rabbi Elimelekh that evenings he saw the angel who rolls away the light before the darkness, and mornings the angel who rolls away the darkness before the light. ‘Yes,’ said Rabbi Elimelekh, ‘in my youth I saw that too. Later on you don’t see these things anymore.’”

Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek  states that “there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go.” She says, “When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens , and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer.” Father Dubay adds: “The personal inability to perceive truth and beauty is related…to a lack of wonder….It is troubling that in a universe replete with mind-boggling fascinations masses of people live dull and drab lives.” 

Dillard relates in her book that “the secret of seeing is…the pearl of great price.” For “the newly sighted,” she says, vision is pure sensation unencumbered by meaning.” Dillard mentions a girl who, born blind, underwent surgery which restored her sight. “When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw ‘the tree with the lights in it.’” Dillard’s quest was to recover this pure sensation of sight so that she too could see the tree with the lights in it.

We can relearn to receive the true “sensations” of nature’s beauty. Here are instructions given by Father Irala to improve our receptive power in the areas of sight and sound.

Sight: “For your re-education you should apply your sense of sight for about ten or twenty seconds to a landscape, an object, a detail. Keep a tranquil or almost passive attention. Take your time. Consider the object before you and no other. Pay no attention to any other idea. Let the object enter within you as it is in itself, without any special effort. Look at it the way a young child does. [Remain] loose and relaxed.”

Hearing: “Apply your hearing to a near or distant noise. Let yourself be penetrated by the sounds, as above, naturally, without mental discussion of the fact or its cause. Be a mere receiver of sound and perceive it with pleasure and relaxation.”

Dillard learned how to see like the young girl who, through her doctor, received the gift of sight. Dillard relates the following: “One day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power.”

The great Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, states: “The part played by the senses in the perception of beauty is even rendered enormous in us, and well nigh-indispensable…only sense knowledge possesses perfectly in man the intuitiveness required for the perception of the beautiful.” “At first,” says Father Irala, “it is not so easy to practice these fully conscious sensations with no attention at all paid to anything else. So, in your first attempts, you might find yourself thinking about the process itself, or the cause, effect, or some circumstances, instead of what you perceive. But in a few days, after a series of good tries, you will succeed in separating the pure sensation from accessory mental processes. And then you will find joy or rest in the sensation itself.”

Commenting on the healing power of nature, Saint Pope John Paul II made the following observation: “The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God.”  (John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 14.)

Have you seen the tree with the lights in it? Learning to slow down and gather in the beauty of nature with child-like simplicity will be of immense value to all of us – restorative and even transformative in its scope and power.

The beautiful fall season is upon us. Get out and enjoy the spectacular beauty of God’s creation!

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (from where I derive the title to this post); Achieving Peace of Heart by Father N. Irala; and The Evidential Power of Beauty by Father Thomas Dubay. I might add that it is well known in mystical theology that prayer becomes progressively supernatural (or tending thereto) the more simple it becomes, fusing ultimately into a simple gaze upon God Himself. It is for this reason that the “prayer of simplicity” is on the threshold of the life of supernatural prayer and contemplation, and is considered the bridge thereto.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

THREE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN MICHIGAN

“From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines…The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine…All seems beautiful to me.” (Walt Whitman)

The Mackinaw Bridge, pictured above with my nephew, Brendan, is one of the most spectacular sights to see in Michigan, but in this post I am talking about natural wonders, and, in particular, about scenic views that raise the awe factor to its highest level in Pure Michigan! Michigan has more shoreline than Florida or California, and it is not that surprising that all three of my picks are essentially associated with Great Lakes – two with Lake Superior and the other with Lake Michigan (two in the Upper Peninsula and one in the Lower).

Just last Friday I picked up my nephew at 5:45 in the morning, and we headed north up I-75 for several hours eventually reaching Mackinaw City at the tip of the Michigan mitten, and there we stopped for a few minutes to walk the shore and gander at the mighty Mackinaw Bridge (which crosses the strait where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet). Crossing the bridge and into the Upper Peninsula, we entered Saint Ignace, a town named in honor of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

From St. Ignace we headed west on M-28 for the long drive to the western end of the Upper Peninsula, passing by the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior, and then the U.P.’s largest city, Marquette, named in honor of the great Catholic missionary, Father Jacques Marquette. We finally made it to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, setting up our tent about twenty-five yards from the shore of Lake Superior. The stars were so amazing that night that it felt as if we were in a planetarium!

The next day we were to be amply rewarded for our journey when we drove a few miles from our camp to the Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains. I knew I had to visit the Porcupine Mountains before I could write this post because so many people had told me about how beautiful they are. The picture below (of the Lake of the Clouds) is from our trip and speaks for itself!

With my trip now completed, here is my selection of the three most beautiful, awe-inspiring places in Michigan.

  1. Tahquamenon Falls (both the Upper and Lower Falls)

  2. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (in particular the scenic drive with its many stop and get out points)

  3. Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains

I believe these three places are three of the most stunning and awe-inspiring places you can visit in Michigan, not that there aren’t many more (but these three make the very top of my list). Here’s a picture of my daughter Bridget and myself at the Sleeping Bear Dunes (taken a few years ago).

The natural world is replete with rays of God’s infinite beauty, so get out there and enjoy God’s creation and reap all the benefits of contact with nature and its rejuvenating qualities.

“The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God.”  (Pope John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 14.)

Thomas L. Mulcahy

P.S. I have lived in Michigan most of my life and I have camped at approximately 14 State Parks located in various places on the Great Lakes of Huron, Superior and Michigan.

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

 

A VERY BIZARRE DEVELOPMENT AT THE JOHN PAUL II INSTITUTE IN ROME

“The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the ‘creativity’ of any contrary determination whatsoever.” (Saint John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor 67)

It what can only be considered a very bizarre and incongruous occurrence, the Vatican (after firing professors loyal to Pope John Paul II’s vision of marriage and family) has recruited two professors who argue for the moral goodness of homosexual acts to teach at the John Paul II Institute in Rome (one immediately visualizes Saint John Paul II turning over in his grave!).

These two professors are Father Maurizio Chiodi and Fr. Pier Davide Guenzi. Both of these priests, apparently relying on the rationale of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia, have argued for the moral goodness of homosexual acts.

Diane Montagna reports that “in a February 2019 interview with Avvenire, Fr. Guenzi argued on the basis of Amoris Laetitia that homosexual relationships can be morally good.” Guenzi said:

“Urged on by the experiences of homosexual believers today we are invited to understand how … the bond between man and woman does not exhaust all human forms of expression, even from the affective point of view.”

And Father Chiodi (who also maintains that artificial contraception can be morally justified!) stated in July of 2019:

“I would not exclude that, under certain conditions, a homosexual couple’s relationship is, for that subject, the most fruitful way to live good relationships, considering their symbolic meaning, which is both personal, relational and social. This, for example, happens when the stable relationship is the only way to avoid sexual vagrancy or other forms of humiliating and degrading erotic relationships or when it is help and stimulus to walk on the road to good relationships.”

What we see, then, is Catholic morality (via Amoris Laetitia) being turned on its head and essentially destroyed as the very things it declares to be intrinsically evil are taught to be good! Can this possibly work out well for the Church, or does it point to a moral collapse preceded by a spiritual one?

In the meantime the very things Saint John Paul II stood for, and for which his Institute was formed, are in essence being used against him. Perhaps the Institute should be renamed in favor of Pope Francis, architect of the new morality.

Or, if Pope Francis is truly interested in protecting the faithful from such clearly erroneous teachings, he should immediately intervene to stop these types of heretical moral theories from being taught to the faithful. That is precisely what a Pope is supposed to do.

Thomas L. Mulcahy

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

HE KEEPS A CAREFUL WATCH OVER ALL THE MOVEMENTS OF HIS HEART

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Father Grou, a great spiritual writer, tells us that one of the means by which we attain to “true and solid virtue” is through the “mortification of the heart.” He states: “We cannot watch too much over our own heart, and all that passes there.” Grou says that to “watch carefully over the heart, to restrain its first motions,” is a “great means” to overcome our fallen human nature and its attendant evil – or at least misguided –  inclinations, and thus to keep ourselves in “peace and self-possession.” Grou advises that this “constant attention” to what is passing in our hearts “is not so difficult as we might think,” and clearly he is suggesting that there are great spiritual dividends to be obtained through this practice of purity of heart.

The Catholic spiritual practice of Purity of Heart is one of the most important spiritual disciplines we can and should make use of. The Catholic cognitive discipline of purity of heart monitors and detects disordered and evil thoughts, capturing them and deleting them as hostile to growth in holiness. Saint Paul says: “We take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” -that is, obedient to the Christian law of charity (see 2 Cor. 10:5). Our goal, then, is to detect and weed out thoughts (movements of our heart) that are opposed to growth in holiness.

By the practice of purity of heart we keep a very careful watch over all the thoughts being presented to our mind and over all the affections and passions being presented to our heart. By this careful watch, we almost immediately intercept and delete the thoughts and affections which violate purity of heart. Thus, as a very simple example, should I suddenly feel the desire to gossip about someone, I check out this movement of my heart, examine it, and ultimately suppress or delete it since it violates purity of heart. Or, as another example, should I suddenly feel swelling up in my heart ill-will towards a certain person, the practice of purity of heart obligates me to take a close look at this movement of my heart, and to mortify it, and to replace it with Christian charity and forgiveness. Gradually, by steadfastly and diligently practicing purity of heart, our heart becomes cleaner and cleaner. What do we want more in our lives than purity of heart? 

Purity of heart is a mechanism of introspection whereby we carefully look at our thoughts and affections, even moment by moment, to place them under Christ’s law of charity. As soon as we observe that our mind or affections are tending in a sinful direction, we immediately mortify such thoughts or affections, giving them no chance of growth within our souls.  Its sort of like we’ve installed security software in our brain that immediately detects and deletes bad stuff (God’s given us the software and all we have to do is learn how to use it!!). 

Father Jacques Philippe, the well known spiritual writer, recommends the practice of purity of heart in his very worthwhile book, In the School of the Holy Spirit (see Appendix II beginning on page 70, and pages 40-42 ). But the two giants of our Catholic spiritual heritage who speak so highly of practicing purity of heart are Father Lallemant (in his classic The SpirituaDoctrine), and Father Grou (in Manual for Interior Souls). Both Fathers Lallemant and Grou were French and Jesuit.

Father Lallemant recommends the practice of purity of heart in conjunction with regular, sacramental confession. He states:

“For the oftener we confess, the more we purify ourselves, the grace proper to this sacrament being purity of conscience. Thus, every confession, besides the increase of habitual grace and of the gifts, imparts also a fresh sacramental grace, that is to say, a new title to receive from God  both actual  graces and the aids necessary for emancipating ourselves more and more from sin.” (Father Lallemant, The Spiritual Doctrine, II,  Chapter 6, as cited in The Mystical Evolution, pages 99-100).

What an amazing purifying tool at your immediate disposal for growth in holiness: the practice of purity of heart! Its like an ongoing, perpetual examination of conscience that keeps all the junk out of our hearts and mind. And when the junk is gone, we become, as Father Lallemant insists, more docile to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, which we previously could not hear. This is why Father Lallemant says that “purity of heart accomplishes so much” in the spiritual life.

Dear friend, take captive every thought in obedience to the Gospel (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

We should practice purity of heart calmy, peacefully, without any panic and with appropriate perspective, with the ultimate goal of keeping ourselves in the peaceful presence of God as much as possible (not being too shocked that from time to time we experience some very disconcerting thoughts).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: Father Lallemant, The Spiritual Doctrine...purity of heart is one of his main doctrines for growth in holiness, and he formed saints!!! Saints Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brebeuf were his students. And also Father Grou as mentioned above. Matt Maher sings, “Hold my heart up to the light” in one of his songs. That is what the practice of purity of heart is: holding our heart up to the light!

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

THE REAL REASON WHY JESUS CLEANSED THE TEMPLE

 

“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,  and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.  And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: `My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it `a den of robbers.’”  The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.” (Mark 11:15-18).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.