Author: tomlirish


“Even in cases where it is not possible to receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John Paul II  and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life” (no. 55).

Further on in Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI urges Catholics to “rediscover the Eucharistic form which their lives are meant to have,” thus making of our lives “a constant self-offering to God….” (no. 72). The practice of making spiritual communions throughout the day is one way to rediscover our Eucharistic form.

In his encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia,  Saint Pope John Paul II wrote:

In the Eucharist, “unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion] is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: Here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union.” Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of “spiritual communion,” which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice;
by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you” [The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35.].

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas spiritual communion consists of “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Sacrament and a loving embrace as though we had already received Him.”

A prayer of spiritual Communion with Jesus can be made in a matter of seconds and repeated often throughout the day. The prayer is highly thought of by the Church since it is indulgenced (see Manual of Indulgences, 4th Edition, p.51). To make a spiritual communion you can simply say the following prayer in a recollected manner:

“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You (From

The prayer of spiritual communion – which may even be made without words in the yearnings of our heart – shows our deep hunger for the Eucharist; it further shows our deep desire to be united to the Eucharistic life of Christ; it shows, as well, our profound love for the Sacrament of Love!

You can make this prayer throughout the day on days when you are unable to attend daily Mass, or you can say the prayer throughout the day as preparation for your next Holy Communion at Mass. Vinny Flynn relates that “Saint Francis de Sales resolved to make a spiritual Communion at least every fifteen minutes so that he could link all the events of the day to his reception of the Eucharist at Mass” (7 Secrets of the Eucharist, pp. 85-86). Flynn relates that Saint Maximilian Kolbe also made frequent spiritual Communions (p.86).

Flynn also refrences Saint Leonard of Port Maurice, who said:

“If you practice the holy exercise of spiritual Communion several times each day, within a month you will see your heart completely changed” (7 Secrets of the Eucharist, pp. 97-98)

In his book, Jesus our Eucharistic Love, Father Stefano Manelli explains what the effects of a well made spiritual communion may produce. He says, “Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori teach, produces effects similar to Sacramental Communion, according to the dispositions with which it is made, the greater or less earnestness with which Jesus is desired, and the greater or less love with which Jesus is welcomed and given due attention.” 

Two other books which highly recommend this practice of making spiritual Communions are: The Blessed Sacrament by Father Faber (beginning at p. 438), and The Blessed Eucharist by Father Muller (Chapter 11). Surely, this practice of making spiritual Communions will draw you closer to the Lord, and make you more desirous of receiving Him sacramentally at Holy Mass.

The practice of spiritual communion secures our life-long love of the Eucharist, for the Eucharist is constantly close to our heart. By this efficacious practice, our hearts are always longing to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Spiritual communion is a great preparation for Holy Communion at Mass.

“Oh Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, please place in our hearts profound gratitude for the Holy Eucharist.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Photo Attribution: This photo of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass on May 11, 2007 was taken by Fabio Pozzebom/ABr and produced by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency. This file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution 3.0 Brazillicense (per Wikipedia).

References: The quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas and Father Manelli were found in the Wikipedia article entitled, “Spiritual Communion.” The quote from Pope John Paul II was found in the Catholics United for the Faith internet article entitled, “Spiritual Communion.” See also Summa Theologica III, question 80, by Saint Thomas Aquinas, discussing the spiritual profit of spiritual Communions (as discussed in Flynn’s book, 7 Secrets of the Eucharist).





“God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1037)

Introduction: The Church gives us a sort of mini-Lent right now with the consecutive feasts of The Exaltation of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows. With this in mind I offer the following short meditation on the reality of Hell.

Meditation: It is a strange thing to know that we are going to live on after death – either in Heaven or Hell. We know it will eventually happen – our death and judgment – but still it is a strange thought and not a little bit unsettling. And yet all our life is being lived ultimately for this one moment – DEATH – when the decision of our eternal destiny will be made and we will either enter into the unimaginable joy of Heaven or the unthinkable despair of Hell. Under either scenario, God will receive praise that will never end (for we were made to praise Him): those in Heaven will praise Him for His mercy; those in Hell will render an involuntary praise of His justice – and so in the end the attributes of God’s Divine Mercy and perfect justice will both receive eternal praise and worship. There is no contradiction between the two.

Jesus died a terribly agonizing and horrific death to save us from going to Hell and to gain us entrance into the unspeakable joys of eternal life with our Blessed God in Heaven. Certainly, it is a great mercy to know that Hell exists, for many people disbelieve Hell and thus find mortal sin less offensive to their tastes than had they believed in Hell. But the merciful Jesus, the tender, loving Word proceeding from the eternal love of the Father, preached about Hell. Indeed, in The Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius makes the salient point that we know Hell exists precisely because Jesus told us so (Ignatius’ meditation on Hell is enough to scare the Hell out of you – which is precisely the point).

Jesus did not mince his words: he told us about the outer darkness, where the worm dieth not, and where there is wailing and grinding of teeth – horrible images, indeed, but probably far less horrible than what Hell will actually be like. Hell simply “cannot be an option” for us: what a “miserable eternity” it would make – to “waste away the ages” in Hell, and after ten million years in Hell – as Father Faber points out – you still have all of eternity to go. “Who could endure it?”

We certainly don’t need a weekly homily about Hell. But Oh how helpful an occasional sermon about Hell might have been for “Joe six-pack” in the pew who very well would have let go of mortal sin if he had better understood the consequences of his acts: but the sermon was never preached, and instead he heard multiple words about letting go of his inner hang-ups, a good word but not a very powerful one. Oh, how many souls are now in Hell – which might have been saved – if the doctrine of Hell had not been neglected (here I am not trying to be judgmental, but rather I am trying to make the point that faith in hell is a great deterrent to going there)? After all, the Church is in essence a soul-saving institution.

It is indeed a very merciful, loving God who warns us of Hell. For, in Jesus Christ, there is no need to go there. The great saints of our Church were adamant that meditation on the four last things – death, judgment, Heaven and Hell – is a very profitable exercise. Who could have talked us out of following their Holy Spirit filled advice?

In light of the above meditation, what could be more important than our devotion to the Sacrament of Reconciliation established by Jesus? When is the last time you went to Confession?

Tom Mulcahy

References: The first paragraph is drawn predominantly from the writings of Father Faber, and the third paragraph is essentially Faber (as I remember what he said); also, Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1861; The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; andAll for Jesus and The Creator and the Creature by Father Faber. The source for this reflection, then, is essentially the awesome writings of Father Faber.

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                 “This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world”

Here is a simple devotion anyone can practice for just a few moments at the three o’clock hour or close thereto. It’s a way to lift your heart and soul to Jesus in prayer as part of a devotional practice that draws upon our Lord’s Passion and Death (our Lord gave up His life on the cross at 3 pm).

Now, please note that this quick devotion – taking only seconds – was promulgated by the Lord Himself: it’s His idea!  He revealed the practice to Saint Faustina, the visionary of Divine Mercy. By now, with her having been canonized, and the Feast of Divine Mercy having been established by the Church as Jesus told her it would!, it seems highly probable that the revelations of Jesus to this mystic are authentic.  Note how generous the Lord is: he promises significant graces for such a small amount of effort in making this lightning- quick devotion!


In His revelations to Saint Faustina, Jesus encouraged the following devotional practice:

“At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony: This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. I will allow you to enter into My mortal sorrow. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion.”(Diary, 1320).

Please note that this practice does not require you to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as highly advantageous as that would be. It only requires a few brief moments of prayer in the manner Jesus describes. One thing you constantly find the saints recommending is the efficacy of meditating on the Lord’s Passion. Here’s a simple way to do it in the time it takes to tie your shoes!  The Lord is good to us. Could He make it any easier?

Sometimes when I practice this devotion, I walk directly to the crucifix in my home simply to gaze on the Lord’s sacrifice for me, and then to implore His mercy.

The three o’cock hour is surely a blessing each day for everyone who practices this devotion.

“Jesus, I trust in You.”

Tom Mulcahy

Image Attribution: Per Wikipedia, the image of Jesus above is the “Original painting of the Divine Mercy (by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934). This is the image which was done with Sister Faustina’s instructions and before her death in 1938, unlike the most known version by Adolf Hyła painted in 1943.” This work/file is is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. The author is listed at Wikipedia as HistoryisResearch.

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                        “Prayer is the lifeline of the soul” (Sister Mary Cordero)

                          “Pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17)

In his highly acclaimed Apostolic Letter, Novo Millenio Ineunte, Pope Saint John Paul II talks about “at risk Christians.” These are Christians who, in the midst of an aggressive cultural attack on the very values given to us by Jesus Christ, lack a substantial prayer life. Because they are “at risk Christians” they are liable to succumb to the spirit of the age and the false wisdom of the world (see 1 Cor. 1:20).

Saint John Paul II puts it this way:

… it would be wrong to think that ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill their whole life. Especially in the face of the many trials of which today’s world subjects faith, they would be not only mediocre Christians but ‘Christians at risk.’ They would run the insidious risk of seeing their faith progressively undermined, and would perhaps end up succumbing to the allure of substitutes….It is therefore essential that education in prayer should become a key-point of all pastoral planning.” (#34)

It seems to me that it would be hard to overemphasize the value and necessity of “simple, humble persevering prayer.” Without devotion to prayer it is highly likely that a Christian will be absorbed into the emerging pagan culture without even realizing it. What a battle we are in!  Moreover, we contend against dark spirits intent on our destruction (see Ephesians 6:12). How are we possibly going to survive such trials without prayer?

A very neglected but great spiritual book is The Christian Life by the German Dominican, Father Albert M. Weiss. On page 83 he talks about how “the decline of the supernatural life begins…with…the neglect of prayer.” He explains that this loss can only be “renewed” by a “zealous attention to prayer.” On page 80 he talks about the“incalculable…power of prayer.” And on page 81 he discusses how prayer withdraws us from the world and “turns [us] wholly to God.” 

In another great spiritual book, The Spiritual Life, the great Father Lallemant mentions that “Saint Ignatius [of Loyola] in his Constitutions would have us regard this familiar converse with God as the chief instrument of our own salvation and that of our neighbor….” (p. 290).  “Nothing furthers more our spiritual advancement than the time and application we devote…to the interior life.” Let us resolve, then, to spend time in interior conversation with God so that He may “make Himself known unto us.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting that great advocate of prayer, Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri, says:

“Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.” (CCC 2744)

Are you an “at risk” Christian? If so, it is essential that you renew your Christian walk by a deep and zealous attention to prayer. The scriptures say, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Turn your attention often to God in prayer. Prayer is your lifeline to Eternity.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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(The Good Samaritan)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

“We are truly his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance.” (Ephesians 2:10}

“There is no faith without good works” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who died in a German concentration camp; and so he is right since the scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms (in language as plain as the nose on your face) that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

The great debate in the early Church was whether Christians were obligated to keep the Mosaic law, those ceremonial and ritual requirements that St. Paul referred to as the “works of the law.” In the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts 15 the apostles, with Peter taking the lead, declared that Christians were not obligated to observe the Mosaic law “because we are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts l5:ll). It is for this reason that St. Paul declared in Romans (at 3:28) that we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law, i.e., justified by faith apart from observing the`Mosaic law.

Some Christians have confused the phrase “works of the law,” which refers to the legal requirements of the Mosaic law, with the term “good works,” as if to say that we are justified by faith apart from good works, even though we have been assured that faith without works is dead. But when Christians talk about good works, they are talking about acts of love which proceed from the Holy Spirit. Without these acts of love, which more specifically are acts of charity, i.e., acts of selfless love, faith is dead. Paul agrees wholeheartedly with James that faith without works is dead, for he states at l Cor.13:2 that if I have faith without charity (love) then I am nothing. And at Galatians 5:6 the apostle Paul tells us that we are justified by a “faith which worketh by love” (KJV). Jesus’ Parable of the Final Judgment at Matthew 25 emphasizes in dramatic terms the critical importance of good works (see CCC 544), pertaining specifically to how love of the Lord is shown through our treatment of those who need our help.

St. John also tells us that faith without charity is dead: “He that loveth not, abideth in death” (1 John 3:14). And: “He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). The new law which Christians are required to keep is not the works of the law contained in the Mosaic code, but rather the law of love. Thus, as Paul states, “Serve one another, rather, in acts of love, since the whole of the law is summarized in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13-15). And: “Anyone who does not look after his own relations … has rejected the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

We have been created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10) . We will be judged, according to Rev. 20:13, each one according to their works. Our good works evidence the presence of the Holy Spirit living within us, transforming us more and more into the image of Christ.

(John 15:5)
It is Jesus Christ who produces good works in us. These works evidence the fact that our faith in Jesus is alive and that God is working in our lives. Otherwise, our faith is dead. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21.). “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24 KJV).    

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Primary Reference: Various Scott Hahn Scripture Studies on tape; see also topical essay in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible entitled, “The Works of the Law” at Galatians 3, p.335.

Note: The key is to do our good works out of love for God (as sons, rather than as employees seeking to earn a wage). The question is not whether we have done enough good works, but rather what more can we do. The model for justification in the scriptures is divine sonship, whereby we cry out, “Abba. Father” in the POWER of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. It is an “inward process”. The “model is growth in relationship with God”. The more we love God, the more we will be willing to give ourselves to him.   

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“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.” (The Evidential Power of Beauty by Father Thomas Dubay).

“The contemplative attitude – such as the contemplation of an object of great beauty and the pure, restful joy it yields – is free from that dynamic tension towards the future: it implies, not a hastening forward but a dwelling in the present.” (Dietrich von Hilderbrand)

We are talking here about what Father Thomas Dubay calls “being alive to beauty,” especially beauty in the external/natural world, and also about the impediments which prevent us from perceiving, experiencing and living beauty. Our conclusion will be that beauty can be trans-formative – truly enhancing our well-being –  if we are open to it.

Father Irala, in his popular book, Achieving Peace of Heart, tells us that “we must live beauty.” He maintains that we need to be “reeducated” to “receive the external world.” This means, in one context, that if we are looking at a beautiful river we should spend some time peering into it –contemplating it – so that we may receive the vital influx of its beauty. Father Irala says that we should let the beauty “enter deep into us.”

Pope Francis made this observation in his recent encyclical on the environment, saying, “In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty” (no. 45). Thus, one formidable impediment to experiencing the beauty of the natural world can simply be our access to it. Another obstacle, as Father Dubay points out, is our lack of wonder. We need to nurture a desire to explore and experience the beauty of the natural world, freeing ourselves from that technological world of artificially created images that keep us trapped in a world of inner-subjectivity detached from truth and beauty.

But most of all I want to stress in this note the mechanics of being receptive to beauty in the natural world, a simple process which will have powerful and tangible results. Father Irala calls this process the “reeducation of receptive power.” It is critical that we re-learn to be receptive to the beauty of the external world and the vital influx of its beauty.

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” (especially if we are experiencing emotional difficulties). 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.

However, 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 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.”


Father Irala tells an interesting story about a businessman who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was apparently felt that the overworked businessman needed some time away from his hectic office to unwind and rejuvenate, but since this remedy wasn’t feasible his physician requested that “an aquarium of tropical fish built in his private office and that he spend an hour every day peacefully watching the graceful convolutions of those little creatures.” It is related that “before the year was out he sent a donation to [his physician’s] hospital as a token of gratitude for his cure” (p.41).


“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.)

And 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.”

In conclusion, our senses open to us a world of incredible beauty that has a “deep restorative power” to heal us and make us happy. We can train ourselves to be more perceptive to the “clear sensations” and the “vital influx” of the beauty of the natural world. To shut ourselves off from this beauty is certainly unwise and most likely harmful. But to immerse ourselves in the beauty of the natural world is profoundly healthy and rejuvenating – the way God meant it to be.


Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Achieving Peace of Heart by Father N. Irala and The Evidential Power of Beauty by Father Thomas Dubay.

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“For because [Jesus] himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)

“[Jesus] this High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:-15-16)

An adaptation from Father Faber’s essay on the great value of our temptations…

Temptations wear us down. They gnaw at us; they irritate us. Sometimes they even overwhelm us. As Catholics, our duty is to mortify each and every evil desire or thought that comes our way. It is a life-time occupation (this mortification of the senses and the will): we will not be free from temptation to sin until we have journeyed beyond this present life and are “safely home” in the “bosom of the Father.” It is wonderful to reflect on the fact that in Heaven there will be no sin!  In Heaven we will be “singularly attracted” ever-more to the Infinite Goodness of our tender Father: and since God is infinite there will ever be “fresh and new motives” for loving God throughout all eternity!

Shall we not – as Father Faber says –  throw a little sunshine on our temptations? Must they always be so dreary and vexing to us? Can we not see the great good that comes to us when we resist temptation by trusting in God and resting in His grace? Do we expect victory to come to us without trials and struggles?

Temptations are, as one great spiritual writer has pointed out, the raw material of our  glory. Whenever we resist temptation, we grow in grace – and what is there in this life, as Faber asks, more important than grace? Who can explain better than Father Faber the amazing graces we receive when we resist a basic temptation. Reflect intently on the following words and you may very well begin to see your temptations in a new light – in a light which helps you to see the marvelous work God is accomplishing in your soul when you cooperate with his grace and courageously resist a temptation:

“We know well that one additional degree of sanctifying grace is of more price than all the magnificence of the universe. The objects upon which we often fasten our affections, or employ our ambition, during long years of concentrated vigilance and persevering toil, are less worthy of our endeavors and less precious in the possession, than one single particle of sanctifying grace.

Yet, let us suppose that a momentary temptation has assailed us, and we have resisted it, or that we have lifted up our hearts for an instant in faith and love to God, or that for the sake of Christ we have done some trifling unselfish thing, scarcely has the action escaped us before then and instantly the heavens have opened invisibly, and the force of Heaven, the participation of the Divine nature, the beauty, power, and marvel of sanctifying grace, has passed in viewless flight and with insensible ingress into our soul. There is not the delay of one instant. Moreover, these ingresses of grace are beyond number, and yet, if we correspond and persevere, the influence and result of each of them is simply eternal. Each additional degree of sanctifying grace represents and secures an additional degree of glory in Heaven, if only we correspond thereto, and persevere unto the end. At the moment in which we receive each additional degree of sanctifying grace our soul is clothed before God in a new and glorious beauty which a moment ago it had not got.
The communication of sanctifying grace to the soul is itself a marvelous and mysterious disclosure of the divine magnificence and liberality.”
(The Creator and the Creature, pp. 216-217)
Is all of this biblical? At James 1:2-3 we read:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
God will give us the grace to overcome temptation and to grow in grace. It is a promise he specifically made in his Word:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13 RSV).
Let us not be too downcast about our temptations. By resisting them with courage – and even cheerfulness – we are gaining (as Faber points out) many graces for ourselves, and giving glory to our Father in Heaven. What wonderful graces we gain by resisting temptation – they are, indeed, the raw material of our future glory!
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot, around 1886, Public Domain, U.S.A. 

References: This note is primarily an adaptation of and is drawn from Chapter 16, “Temptations,” in Father Faber’s book, Growth in Holiness; and The Creator and the Creature (F.W. Faber).

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“When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the “poorest of the poor” on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal.” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, no. 96)

Here is the very troubling passage from Amoris Laetitia (no. 301) which clearly suggests that a person can be in a “concrete situation” where he has no choice but to live in mortal sin (and is thus not guilty of  any sin):

301.  For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.  The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.  More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule.  A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.  

Saint Pope John Paul II specifically rejected the above argument proposed in AL 301, stating the following in no. 76 of his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor:

“Such theories however are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition…. The faithful are obliged to acknowledge and respect the specific moral precepts declared and taught by the Church in the name of God, the Creator and Lord. When the Apostle Paul sums up the fulfillment of the law in the precept of love of neighbor as oneself (cf. Rom 13:8-10), he is not weakening the commandments but reinforcing them, since he is revealing their requirements and their gravity. Love of God and of one’s neighbor cannot be separated from the observance of the commandments of the Covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus Christ and in the gift of the Spirit.”

We are faced then with at least a hypothetical or conceptual heresy from Pope Francis, to wit: that a person may be justified in intentionally committing mortal sin. If this be the case, then the foundation of Catholic morality has been fractured, and who is to say what is right or wrong? Pope John Paul II warned of this very situation, saying:

“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).

Pope Francis, in AL 301,  has attempted to alter the understanding of justification pronounced at the Council of Trent, where it was infallibly said:

“If anyone says that the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and established in grace, let him be anathema” (Session 6, canon 18)

I conclude with this final quote from Pope John Paul II, which should have served as an impenetrable road block against theories of moral relativism such as AL 301:

“Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical and which is today being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuals but also for the whole of society, with the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts” (no. 115, Veritatis Splendor)

What motivated Pope Francis to go against the entire Tradition of the Church, and thus to compromise the moral law, is a very perplexing consideration? May the Holy Spirit guide the Church back to the fullness of truth.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

Image: Saint Peter by Peter Paul Rubens, between 1610 and 1612 (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

P.S. Significantly, one of the Church’s most prominent theologians has recently addressed errors in Amoris Laetitia. See link that follows:

Leading theologian: change canon law to correct papal errors …

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