Uncategorized

THE PRACTICE OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNION


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 sacredheart.com).

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. And in situations such as the present, where it is impossible for many Catholics to go to Mass due to the pandemic, spiritual communion is a highly recommended, almost vital, practice.

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

Let us all pray earnestly for the pandemic to end, and for the prompt discovery of a safe and ethical vaccine.   

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).

All rights reserved.

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.

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

A POWERFUL DEVOTION TO SAINT JOSEPH!

“This is precisely the mystery [of the Incarnation] in which Joseph of Nazareth ‘shared’ like no other human being except Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word. He shared in it with her; he was involved in the same salvific event; he was the guardian of the same love, through the power of which the eternal Father ‘destined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ’ (Eph 1:5)” (Saint Pope John Paul II).

I am relying heavily on Father Faber’s wonderful insights for the content of this note. If you read his book Bethlehem, I believe you will find most of the points made in this note contained therein, or in another one of his books. Father Faber recommends an immense devotion to Saint Joseph, and in particular he recommends Father Lallemant’s famous Novena to Saint Joseph explained in detail by Father Faber in this note.

Consider for a moment, as Father Faber suggests, the infinite blessedness of the child Jesus. Consider, as well, the “colossal sanctity” of the Virgin Mary. Now, contemplate in amazement that Joseph was entrusted by the Eternal Father with the care and custody of Mary and Jesus. How precious Joseph must be to Jesus and Mary! Who can fathom the depth of their love for Joseph? How pleasing it must be to Jesus and Mary when we honor Saint Joseph.

Devotion to Saint Joseph is prudent not only in light of the fact that he is the Patron Saint of a happy death (the moment of death is the moment that determines everything – all that we will be for all eternity), but also because Joseph is an image of the tender and loving Eternal Father, and thus devotion to Saint Joseph – as Father Faber points out –  smooths out a harsh or even melancholy view of God the Father. What is more crucial in our spiritual lives than to view God as our tender, loving Father? Only then can we truly trust in God and have that confidence in the Father that made the saints saints.

We know that Saint Teresa of Avila was a great mystic, so much so that even in this life she journeyed to that unspeakable seventh mansion where a soul is united in mystical marriage to the Blessed Trinity (she actually experienced an intellectual vision of the Blessed Trinity when she reached that depth of union with God), and yet this dear saint was always practical and she exercised an immense devotion to Saint Joseph. Here is something she wrote about her relationship to Saint Joseph:

“I took for my patron and Lord the glorious St. Joseph …. I cannot call to mind that I have ever asked him at any time for anything he has not granted. I am filled with amazement when I consider the great favors God has given me through this blessed saint.”

Oh how Jesus is praised through his Saints! Next to Mary, Joseph must be the greatest of all the saints. To think that in his earthly life he received the love of Jesus and Mary, day by day, moment by moment, is to realize that he received love beyond anything we can imagine! It is the type of love we will receive in Heaven, when our hearts will be big enough to receive such love. Yet, as it appears, when Mary took Jesus in her womb to see Elizabeth, and John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb as if sanctified by the presence of Jesus (Jesus subsequently calling him the greatest of all the prophets!), how much more was Joseph sanctified by Jesus from the moment of the Incarnation and Mary’s “Yes” until the day he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

One of the great advocates of devotion to Saint Joseph was the gifted spiritual writer, Father Louis Lallemant, whose students included Issac Jogues and Jean de Brebeuf, who both became canonized saints! Father Faber relates that Father Lallemant “was gifted with an extraordinary grace for inspiring every body with a devotion to St. Joseph ; and his advice to persons who desired to enter on the ways  of spiritual perfection was to take as their model of humility Jesus Christ, as their model of purity the Blessed Virgin, and as their model of the interior life St. Joseph. It was after these divine patterns that he labored at his own perfection ; and it was easy to perceive how happily he had wrought them out in his own person. Every day, in honor of St. Joseph, he observed four short exercises, from which he drew wonderful profit.

The two first were for the morning, and the two others for after dinner. The first was to raise himself in spirit to the heart of St. Joseph, and consider how faithful he was to the inspirations of grace, then turning his eyes inward on his own heart, to discover his own want of fidelity, he made an act of humiliation, and excited himself to perseverance. The second was to reflect how perfectly St. Joseph reconciled the interior life with his external occupations. Then, turning to observe himself and his own occupations, he perceived wherein they fell short of the perfection of his model. By means of this exercise he made such progress, that towards the close of his life he remained in an uninterrupted state of interior recollection and the attention which he paid to external things, instead of weakening his union with God, served rather to strengthen it.

The third was to accompany in spirit St. Joseph, as the spouse of the Blessed Virgin, and to meditate on the wonderful knowledge which he had enjoyed of her virginity and maternity, in consequence of the humble submission with which he received the announcement of the Angel respecting the mystery of the Incarnation. By this exercise he excited himself to love St. Joseph for his love of his most holy spouse. The fourth was, to figure to himself the adoration and homage of love and grati tude which St. Joseph paid to the Holy Child Jesus, and to beg to participate therein, that he might adore and love this Divine Infant with all the sentiments of the deepest reverence and the tenderest love of which he was capable.

He wished to carry with him to the grave some tokens of his devotion to this great Saint, and requested that an image of his beloved patron might be put with him in his coffin. It was observed on many occasions that St. Joseph never refused him any thing he asked ; and whenever he wished to induce persons to honor him, he used to assure them that he did not possess a single grace which he had not obtained through his intercession” (from Father Faber’s Introduction to Father Lallemant’s great treatise on the spiritual life, The Spiritual Doctrine).

You can petition the Holy Spirit for the four great graces mentioned above in Father Faber’s summary through Father Lallemant’s famous Novena to Saint Joseph at the link below:

http://www.catholictradition.org/Joseph/joseph12.htm

I believe it was in the final apparition of Fatima that Joseph was seen by Sister Lucia, holding the child Jesus, and blessing the world. Dear Jesus, thank you for sharing your virginal Father with us. Is there anything that you will not share with us? For you told us that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom ( Luke 12:32) and the Kingdom of the Incarnation begins with the Holy Family, and its head, Good Saint Joseph.

Saint Teresa of Avila once again impresses on us the power of devotion to Saint Joseph, saying:

“To other Saints Our Lord seems to have given power to succor us in some special necessity – but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, He has given the power to help us in all. Our Lord would have us understand that as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth – for St. Joseph, bearing the title of father and being His guardian, could command Him – so now in Heaven Our Lord grants all his petitions. I have asked others to recommend themselves to St. Joseph, and they, too, know the same thing by experience . . .” (Autobiography).

Nothing less than an immense devotion to Saint Joseph is justified. He is the Patron of the Universal Church. He is the Patron of a Happy Death. Don’t you dare lie down to die – when the time comes –  without having Saint Joseph close to your heart!

Dear friend, your love for Jesus and Mary will most certainly increase the more you draw nearer to Saint Joseph.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, around 1620(Public Domain, U.S.A.)

ReferencesFavorite Prayers to Saint Joseph (TAN), a highly recommended devotional to Saint Joseph which includes Father Lallemant’s famous novena mentioned above. I am certainly indebted to Father Faber for the tone and content of this entire note, but especially the first two paragraphs and the last two paragraphs, which contain not only his insights but his manner of speaking too. For example, he talks about “nothing short of an immense devotion” in one of his books, and “not lying down to die” in another.

All rights reserved.

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.

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

REMEMBERING A SAINT PATRICK’S DAY MIRACLE

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

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

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

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

Fast-forwarding to 2020,  the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade here in Detroit has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, in honor of Saint Patrick, I would like to dedicate this post to the memory of Thomas Joseph Mulcahy, my Father, who was the Grand Marshall for the 2003 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Detroit (see photo below). Thanks Dad for your profound devotion to Irish culture and the Catholic faith. Our Lady of the Irish Madonna of Hungary, pray for the soul of Tom.

Saint Patrick, Patron of Ireland, pray for us!

Let us all pray earnestly, through the intercession of Mary, for a speedy ending to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thomas L. Mulcahy

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

All rights reserved.

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.

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

THE REAL VALUE OF OUR TEMPTATIONS

“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).

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.

LET THE CRUCIFIX BE YOUR CHIEF SPIRITUAL BOOK!

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

“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

That crucifix in your home is of immense spiritual value. Father Grou, a great spiritual writer, goes as far as to say the crucifix is the “answer to everything”! Everything as in everything!

Grou says: “Let the crucifix… be our chief spiritual book. Let it be a book not only for our eyes only but for our hearts! Let us beg of Jesus to teach us how to read in it, and to reveal to us all its secrets, not only that we may contemplate them in the sweetness of prayer, but that we may practice them faithfully during the whole course of our life.”

Grou tells us that “the crucifix is the greatest proof that God…could give us of His love , and it is the strongest motive He could employ to gain our hearts in return. Every virtue is included in the crucifix, and it is the consummation of the way of perfection.”

“The crucifix is the abridgment of all that a Christian ought to practice. All the morality of the Gospel consists in bearing our cross, in renouncing ourselves, in crucifying our flesh…and in sacrificing ourselves to the will of God….” The crucifix is “the most striking and living expression of the whole teaching of the Gospel.”

Even in Heaven, says Father Grou, we will never fully comprehend “the greatness of this benefit which faith places before our eyes when we look at our crucifix.” God “could not possibly …given us a greater proof of His love.” Such a “way of salvation could only have been conceived in the heart of a God who loved us infinitely.”

Grou says: “[Let us take our part] in the sufferings and humiliations” of Jesus, asking our Savior to “plant His cross deep in [our] hearts.” Jesus on “the cross will be an answer to everything,” and we will “leave His presence with the desire to suffer more.” Grou asks: looking at the crucifix “shall we argue with God about trifles?” Shall we complain about “what virtue costs us?” Jesus crucified, says Grou, will give us the courage and strength to bear our crosses, and our weaknesses, even to the point of living out the Gospel with a greater patience and charity towards our neighbors (especially the ones who cause us the most difficulties!).

Are you looking for a profitable Lenten exercise? Pull up a chair in front of your crucifix. Look at it, study it, let the crucifix be your chief spiritual book as you converse with Jesus crucified in deep prayer, and then place it in your heart, and let it do its work of sacrificial love in all the trials and tribulations of your life.

Amen!

Thomas L. Mulcahy

Ref. This is a highly edited and condensed note from an essay by Father Grou, entitled, “On the Crucifix,” from his great work, A Manual For Interior Souls, and although in places he is sometimes talking to souls seeking perfection, it should be remembered that all baptized Christians are called to this lofty state, and I certainly consider his comments applicable to all Catholics in a state of sanctifying grace, wherever they may be on their spiritual journey. The essay itself is much longer (much more detailed) than this condensed and edited note.

P.S. A number of years ago I went out and looked for and bought a crucifix that I found particularly moving to my own sensibilities. That decision has paid many dividends for me.

All rights reserved.

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.

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

 

A SHORT NOTE ON THE ULTIMATE MEANING OF JANE EYRE


“You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness, but I cannot live so: and you have no pity” (Jane Eyre talking to Mrs. Reed at Gateshead)

“Eight years [at Lowood]! you must be tenacious of life.” (Mr. Rochester talking to Jane Eyre)

The most important and famous line in the novel, Jane Eyre, is, “Reader, I married him.” In her marriage to Mr. Rochester all the tensions of the novel, and all the unfulfilled desires of Jane’s heart, are resolved: Jane finds true love, equality of souls, and peace with God. The ultimate meaning of Jane Eyre is that a human being is completed, or made whole, by an authentic love rooted in moral integrity and an equality of justice. If Jane Eyre suffered immensely from being unloved and from living in isolation at the beginning of the novel (at Gateshead), she ultimately finds true love and affirmation in her marriage to Mr. Rochester at the end of the novel (after many struggles and a profound purification of Mr. Rochester’s heart). “In their marriage,” says Eric Knies in The Art of Charlotte Bronte, “all the conflicts of the novel are resolved. Jane is at peace with God and man, and especially with herself.”

The two virtues I see Jane Eyre striving after during the course of the novel are real justice and authentic love. She insists on these two things; she demands them; she will not compromise them, no matter how dear the sacrifice (even if she has to sleep on the ground and almost starve to death). At Gateshead she is precocious precisely because she is treated unfairly by the Reeds. At Lowood she is profoundly upset by unjustly being labelled a liar. At Thornfield she will not consent to be Mr. Rochester’s mistress; at Moor House she cannot accept a marriage proposal by St. John Rivers based on self-sacrifice and moral duty (but without love). Clearly, a blessed rage for justice and true love burns within the heart of Jane Eyre, and she will not compromise it!

Jane Eyre is not primarily a novel about Jane’s growth in self-knowledge (which doesn’t mean she didn’t learn a few things along the way and, to be sure, her dying school-mate, Helen Burns, teaches Jane a powerful lesson about Christian forgiveness in Chapter 6). There is a moral sturdiness to Jane Eyre from the very beginning of the novel, and she has a keen eye for the counterfeit throughout the story. Jane does not suffer from self-deceit, but from the deceit of others (such as Mr. Brocklehurst’s religious hypocrisy, Mrs. Reed’s deception about the inheritance, and Mr. Rochester’s concealment of an existing marriage). Jane will not enter into love on deceptive terms, and her moral integrity is never in doubt throughout the novel, even though there is conflict in her heart when Mr. Rochester essentailly pleads with her to stay with him after their failed wedding at Thornfield. The character in the novel who grows in self-knowledge is Mr. Rochester, who no doubt undergoes a significant conversion after the devastating fire at Thornfield, a conversion not unrelated to his prayer and penitence (“I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance, the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were but very sincere”).

In reality, Mr. Rochester underwent the most painful of purifications, losing everything, as his entire life is essentially purged in the devastating fire at Thornfield, wiped out so to speak, burned up. He emerges from this holocaust as a new man, humbled, repentant, blinded and maimed. And yet in God’s Providence, which is an underlying theme in the novel, he and Jane will be reunited, and will experience true happiness, true communion of souls.

Acknowledging Charlotte Bronte’s literary prowess and imaginative genius in weaving a story out of various strands of story-telling techniques, Jane Eyre is, nevertheless, to quote Professor Ruth A. Blackburn (who is in turn relying on Robert B. Martin’s study, The Accents of PersuasionCharlotte Bronte’s Novels)“essentially a religious novel”. Indeed, if one were assigned the task of demonstrating how Jane Eyre exemplifies the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, there would be plenty of material in the novel to successfully complete the assignment. Still, Charlotte Bronte utilized her wonderful skill at incorporating suspenseful Gothic elements into her Jane Eyre story, and relied also on her knowledge and appreciation of the Romantic movement in literature to give the story (to borrow from Milton) a sensuous, personal and passionate style. And yet, for all of this, Bronte is able to maintain the story’s realism.  As G.K. Chesterton acutely observes of Jane Eyre:

“The shortest way  of stating [Charlotte Bronte’s] strong contribution is, I think, this: that she reached the highest romance through the lowest realism. She did not set out with Amadis of Gaul in a forest or with Mr. Pickwick in a comic club. She set out with herself, with her own dingy clothes, and accidental ugliness, and flat, coarse, provincial household; and forcibly fused all such muddy materials into a spirited fairy-tale. If the first chapters on the home and school had not proved how heavy and hateful sanity can be, there would really be less point in the insanity of Mr. Rochester’s wife—or the not much milder insanity of Mrs. Rochester’s husband. She discovered the secret of hiding the sensational in the commonplace: and Jane Eyre remains the best of her books (better even than Villette) because while it is a human document written in blood, it is also one of the best blood-and-thunder detective stories in the world” (The Victorian Age in Literature (1913).

For all its utilization of Gothic literary techniques and Romanticism, Jane Eyre is essentially the story of a quest for authentic, life-affirming human love, and this is realized especially through prayer, perseverance and Providence, and a keen sense of the counterfeit. As Professor Blackburn observes, “Knies agrees…that the theme of Jane Eyre is the search for love; but he makes clear that it must be the right kind of love, based on ‘moral and individual integrity’, each partner retaining ‘his uniqueness as an individual,’ which ‘in turn requires a firm religious orientation’.”

It would be useless to argue that Jane Eyre is not a religious novel, because at major key points in the novel faith, hope and reliance upon God’s Providential care play a key role in the telling of Jane’s story, whether it is Helen Burns teaching Jane about Christian forgiveness or Mr. Rochester attesting to his personal redemption. Here, briefly, in proof thereof, are some of the main examples of the profound religious dimension of Jane Eyre’s life by way of direct quotes from the mouth of Jane Eyre:

“I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it, and framed an humbler supplication; for change, stimulus; that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: ‘Then,’ I cried, half desperate, ‘grant me at least a new servitude’!” (Chapter 10).
“Love me, then, or hate me, as you will,” I said at last, “you have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God’s, and be at peace.” (Chapter 21)
“One idea only still throbbed life-like within me – a remembrance of God: it begot a muttered prayer…’Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help’.” (Chapter 26)
“Trust in God…Believe in Heaven…We were born to strive and endure.” (Chapter 27)
“I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?” (Chapter 27)
“God must have led me on…I was weeping wildly as I walked along my solitary way…a weakness seized me and I fell: I lay on the ground some minutes, pressing my face to the wet turf. I had some fear – or hope – that here I should die: but I was soon up: crawling forward on my hands and knees, and then again raised to my feet – as eager and as determined as ever to reach the road” (Chapter 27).
“I felt the might and strength of God. Sure was I of His efficiency to save what He had made: convinced I grew that neither earth should perish, nor one of the souls it treasured. I turned my prayer to thanksgiving: the Source of Life was also the Saviour of spirits. Mr. Rochester was safe; he was God’s, and by God would he be guarded. I again nestled to the breast of the hill; and ere long in sleep forgot sorrow.” (Chapter 28)
“Oh, Providence! sustain me a little longer! Aid – direct me!” (Chapter 28)
“I can but die,” I said, “and I believe in God. Let me try to wait His will in silence”…I thanked God – experienced amidst unutterable exhaustion a glow of grateful joy – and slept.” (Chapter 28)
“I adhered to principle and law, and scorned and crushed the insane promptings of a frenzied moment. God directed me to a correct choice: I thank His providence for the guidance!” (Chapter 31)
“When his first born was put into his arms, he could see that the boy had inherited his own eyes….On that occasion, he again, with a full heart, acknowledged that God had tempered judgment with mercy.” (Chapter 37)

I pray that I might have as much faith in God’s providential help as Jane Eyre during my times of trial and tribulation! Moreover, the claim sometimes made that Jane Eyre is hostile to religion, especially by the manner in which it portrays ministers in the story, is specifically rebutted by Charlotte Bronte in her “Preface to the Second Edition” of Jane Eyre, a preface which also clearly attests to Charlotte Bronte’s strong personal faith.

Jane Eyre’s faith is intensely personal, subjective in nature (characteristic of the Romantic movement), and this subjectivity is seen too in Helen Burns who appears to hold to an overly idealistic view of salvation, touching upon the idea of universal redemption in stark contrast to the fire and brimstone preaching of Mr. Brocklehurst (see Chapter 6 where Helen says, “I hold another creed…for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a rest…not a terror and abyss.”). This is the biggest theological difficulty presented in the novel (along with the concern about syncretism in certain places within the novel), but fortunately it does not compromise the strong moral thrust of the story (see postscript note below).

At the end of Jane Eyre, Jane glories in the joy and happiness of being loved, and of giving and receiving love. She says:

“I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest – blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward’s society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character – perfect concord is the result.” (Chapter 38)

Finally, by an equality of justice (as I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this note), or perhaps I should call it an equality of love, I am referring to Jane’s social commentary in Chapter 12, where she says:

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”(Chapter 12)

It was this equality of souls that endeared Jane to Mr. Rochester, and helped her to fall in love with him. As she said in Chapter 23, when she thought Mr. Rochester was going to marry Blanche Ingram, necessitating Jane to leave Thornfield:

“I grieve to leave Thornfield: I love Thornfield – I love it, because I have lived in it a full and delightful life, -momentarily at least. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified. I have not been buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic, and high. I have talked, face to face, with what I reverence; with what I delight in, -with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind. I have known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish to feel I absolutely must be torn from you for ever. I see the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of death.”

Of course, however important this equality of love (or equality of souls) is –  it is, nevertheless, not sufficient, in and of itself, to secure a happy marriage for Jane Eyre. It is not until Mr. Rochester’s profound conversion and turning towards God that all the difficulties in the novel are resolved paving the way for the novel’s joyful ending!

CONCLUSION:

Jane Eyre’s incredible journey in search of authentic, life-affirming love, a journey which took her from Gateshead, to Lowood, to Thornfield, to Moor House, and ultimately to Ferndean, is not so much a geographical journey but a journey of the heart. But it is ultimately a journey sustained by faith and trust in God!

It is a journey sustained by Jane’s quest for justice; it is a journey sustained by Jane’s tenacity for life; it is  a journey sustained by Jane’s quest to be loved; but ultimately it is a journey sustained by Jane’s faith in God and in His providential care for her life, a faith sustained even in the midst of tremendous sufferings and heroically endured privations. In this regard, who can ever forget Jane’s advice to Mr. Rochester in Chapter 27 as some of the best advice anyone could ever be given:

         “Trust in God…Believe in Heaven…We were born to strive and endure.”

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: I looked at a bunch of internet notes on Jane Eyre in preparation for this post (which were helpful), but in my particular case what was most helpful was an old study guide by Professor Ruth A. Blackburn, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and, more precisely, the note therein entitled, “Survey of Criticism,” pertaining to the novel. The influence of Gothic and Romantic literary styles in Jane Eyre is touched upon in many commentaries. The commentators agree that the burning down of Thornfield is symbolic of Mr. Rochester’s personal purification.

Theological Problems in Jane Eyre: Theologically speaking, I am personally able to separate the good from the bad in Jane Eyre, and it seems to me that the novel ends on a strong Christian note (the fleeing from sin, trust in God, the redemption of Mr. Rochester, the praise of God’s mercy and the value of a God-centered marriage). In short, Jane Eyre gives a boost to my faith although I am not unaware that there are theological difficulties present in the novel such as universalism, syncretism and excessive subjectivity of faith not adequately linked to the community and the Church.

The main difficulty in Jane Eyre is not its criticism of clergymen but the “blurring” or “merging” of Christian spirituality with other forms of spirituality that opens Charlotte Bronte to the charge of syncretism, although I suspect that she would be able to mount a defense to this charge.

The difficulty with universalism in Jane Eyre is mentioned in a number of internet articles (Google: Charlotte Bronte and universalism). The difficulty (and examples thereof) of syncretism in Jane Eyre is also discussed in a number of internet articles (Google: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, syncretism, and the merging of spiritualities in Jane Eyre).

I will always remember Jane Eyre as the woman who said to Mr. Rochester, “I advise you to live sinless,” and to God as she walked through the valley of the shadow of death (I paraphrase), “Lead me on.” It would be hard to get better advice than that!

All rights reserved.

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR LENT?

 2048px-US_Navy_080206-N-7869M-057_Electronics_Technician_3rd_Class_Leila_Tardieu_receives_the_sacramental_ashes_during_an_Ash_Wednesday_celebration

“The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and alms-giving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1438)

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

Here’s my take. The “forty” day fast during Lent you have in mind (of giving something up during Lent as a penance) is purely voluntary and traditional…it is not mandated by Church law, but is highly recommended in our tradition. 

What is mandated during Lent is to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday – which means one full meal and two snack meals on those two days. This is called a fast (age requirement: obligatory for those 18-59 years old).

Also during Lent we are required by canon law to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. This is called abstinence (age requirement: anyone 14 or older).

Naturally, you are not required to fast or abstain from meat if you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing so.

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

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

The 40 day fast (or penance) is not mandatory, only voluntary. The only binding rules during Lent are mentioned above. The “Sunday” exception is thus really only an exception to a non-binding idea of justice for those doing the 40 day fast voluntarily, based on two considerations: (1) that Sunday, celebrating the Resurrection, is a day of celebration, not fasting, and (2) the period of time from Ash Wednesday to the official ending of Lent with the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday is actually 44 days long, so you’re still going about 40 days even if you skip Sundays!

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

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday!

God Bless you,

Tom Mulcahy

P.S. I do relax my 40 day fast on my wedding anniversary, and perhaps for other good reasons.

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

All rights reserved.

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.

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

A SIMPLE AND LOVING GAZE UPON GOD (THE PRAYER OF SIMPLE REGARD)

“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)

INTRODUCTION

In this note we are looking at what is sometimes called the prayer of simple regard or the prayer of simplicity, which, in its essence, involves a simple and loving gaze upon God (and which is explained in detail below).

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.

HOW TO PRACTICE THE PRAYER OF SIMPLICITY

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).

CONCLUSION:

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.

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.

FIVE QUALITIES OF A WELL-MADE PRAYER

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Any prayer (it seems to me) where we lovingly lift our heart to God and talk to Him is a good prayer. And even when we experience dryness in our prayer life, or even repugnance, persevering through such difficulties has special merit and helps us to grow in holiness.

In this note we will review five essential qualities or components of a well-made prayer, relying on one of the Church’s greatest spiritual writers, Father Jean Nicolas Grou (1731-1803). Evelyn Underhill, one of the great writers on Christian mysticism, once remarked that Father Grou’s work, How to Pray, is “one of the best short expositions of the essence of prayer which has ever been written.”

According to Father Grou the five essential components of a well-made prayer are that it be made: attentively, reverently, lovingly, confidently and perseveringly. Here are condensed and edited comments from Father Grou pertaining to these five qualities of a well-made prayer.

PRAY ATTENTIVELY: “A prayer addressed to God, whether to pay him homage or to plead with him for our highest interests, must be attentive to the point of keeping all our powers concentrated on [God]. But let me ask you this: when you pray do you seriously wish to be attentive? Is it your first care to recollect yourself and think [about] what you are going to do? If you do not begin by this [recollection], you do not prepare yourself for so holy an action, and you are responsible for your distractions.”

PRAY REVERENTLY: “The very idea of prayer involves that of reverence and humility. He who prays is a creature; it is God to whom he prays. What is God compared with the creature? What is the creature compared with God? This thought alone ought to fill us with the deepest humility; how much greater will this humility be when we remember that we are sinners and that God is infinitely holy. If you do not feel this, if you do not approach God with a profound sense of your own nothingness, you should mistrust your prayer.”

PRAY LOVINGLY: “The third characteristic of prayer is that it is loving. God desires to be loved as much as he is respected, and the Holy Spirit, who is the eternal love of the Father and the Son, inspires no prayer that is not a prayer for love and a prayer which leads to love. It is love which must inspire the Christian to pray: love must be the final aim [of his prayer], and the increase of love must be its fruit.” This takes us back to what I have said before: it is the heart that prays and therefore loves or aspires to love.”

PRAY CONFIDENTLY: “Confidence is the fourth characteristic of the prayer that is taught to us of the Holy Spirit. When the [Holy Spirit] makes us pray, it is plain that he influences us to ask only such things as he has resolved to give us, and that the first thing he grants us is a firm confidence that we shall obtain our requests. This is the confidence the [Holy Spirit] answers and inspires. It is our part to respond to it and not let our confidence be weakened  by any fear or any kind of reasoning. We see in the Gospels that Jesus Christ’s miracles were all performed in response to faith. That faith [Jesus] sought was not just the faith in divine power, but rather the hope he would grant what was asked. If the Spirit of God were the only wind that blew on you, he would incline and urge your heart in the direction of confidence.”

PRAY PERSEVERINGLY: “Lastly, the prayer produced by the Spirit is persevering. Let us be humble and patient and never let us doubt that, if our requests tend to the glory of God and our own salvation, they will be granted in the end. If our requests are not granted, it is because they will attend neither to his glory nor our own benefit; and so we should not wish to obtain them. God has promised to open the door to him who knocks, but he has not said that he would not keep him waiting. He has fixed the right time to give us the boon, and likewise the right time for us to be inspired with the first thought of seeking it. Whenever we have reason to believe that this thought is from him, we must persevere in our prayer, being certain that he will reward our perseverance.”

Concluding Prayer of Father Grou: “Oh my Savior, teach me to pray then no more in my own way and according to human wisdom, but according to the method of the Holy Spirit. May the [Holy Spirit] quicken me and pray in me with those ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’ of which thine Apostle [Paul] speaks. Amen.”

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Reference: My edition of How to Pray by Father Grou is published by The Upper Room. My edited quotes are from pages 32-41, Chapter Three. The book itself elaborates in much more detail on these five essential points and is highly recommended. Note as well that How to Pray is taken from a much larger work of Father Grou called The School of Jesus Christ, a very difficult book to find in English. The quote from Evelyn Underhill is in the forward of How to Pray. Spiritual writers balance “our nothingness,” our indigence, our great need for God against the complementary truth of our dignity as children of God.

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.

FIVE QUICK KEYS TO MAINTAINING THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

 hiker-984083_1920

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” (Matt. 7: 13-14)

 

1. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE REQUIRES AN INTENSE SPIRITUAL COMMITMENT

Comment: Saint Pope John Paul II wrote, “[Although] the journey is totally sustained by grace, it nonetheless demands an intense spiritual commitment” (NMI 32). In other words, our effort is “indispensable.” Succinctly stated, the spiritual journey is going to require great effort on our part – really all that we have. “Strive for…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This is not a commitment to self-sufficiency – rather it is a commitment to serving God in the power of His grace. As St. Paul exhorts, “Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Cor. 9:24).

2. TO SUSTAIN THE JOURNEY, KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE GOAL: ETERNAL LIFE

Comment: The forms of this world are passing away. The great good is Heaven. How quickly our lives will come to an end. Do not try to make an absolute out of some fleeting pleasure or good of this world. The goal is eternal happiness and joy with God and the saints. Keep in mind that eternity will last quite a long time. Conversely, it would be quite a tragedy to “waste away the ages in hell” (F.W. Faber). Here, then, is a powerful verse to meditate on from time to time: “For this light momentary affliction [here on planet earth] is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

3. IF YOU FALL INTO SIN, GET BACK UP IMMEDIATELY AND SEEK GOD’S MERCY

Comment: A key spiritual point made by the saints is to rise promptly after every fall. We often hear the proverb that the good man falls seven times a day, but the rest of that verse says, “BUT HE GETS BACK UP” (Proverbs 27:16). Judas betrayed Jesus and fell into despair. Peter betrayed Jesus and sought His forgiveness. God is not unsympathetic to the fact that we are weak. He wants us to keep trying and to never give up. In short, we should learn from our mistakes and use them as a foundation for growth, not diminishment, with joyful recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

4. GROWTH IN HOLINESS IS ESSENTIAL

Comment: The spiritual journey in general is a turning away from sin and a turning towards God. The goal is to grow closer and closer to God through a life of prayer, virtuous living, and good works. If we are not growing in the faith, we run the risk of backsliding. George MacDonald, the famous writer, puts it this way: “Do not be content not to grow. If you are not growing bigger you are growing less. If the light is not increasing the darkness is encroaching. If we are not growing upward we are growing downward.” The Christian model of faith is one of growth in relationship with God. “The Fathers of the Church tell us that he who does not go forward on the way to God goes back” (Father Garrigou-LaGrange).

5. TRUSTING GOD DURING TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS IS ESSENTIAL

Comment:  The essence of faith is trust in the Father’s care for our lives. This can be a source of great joy during times of spiritual sweetness and consolation, but far more difficult during times of tribulation and darkness. The great spiritual writers remind us that God will lead us through times of dryness, darkness and suffering, and that these trials will lead us to deeper union with God. The key is to patiently trust in God even when it appears He has abandoned us. It is in this sense that the victory comes by FAITH. The saints coach us to practice certitude of faith during times of darkness, and boundless confidence in God during trials and tribulations.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Primary Reference: I am relying for this post primarily on The Fulfillment of All Desire by Dr. Ralph Martin (an excellent, highly recommended book which maps out the spiritual journey).

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.

%d bloggers like this: