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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Short Note

The Ascent of Mount Carmel by John of the Cross is about the active stages of prayer.

The Dark Night is mostly about the passive. If you have not read St. John, read the Ascent first and then the Dark Night.

Also, God has His plan as to how He wants these processes to be played out in one's life.
One can see the "symptoms" of these stages simply by looking at one's state of prayer.

And, as I have stressed before, negation, nada, and darkness, that is a lack of comprehension, are marks of the Dark Night. One cannot, as I have noted many, many times, skip stages, as we are made up of human aspects of memory, understanding and will, as well as being body and soul. We cannot ignore who we are. Too many people read the great saints and imagine they are in stages which they are not. That is a danger of reading the texts without a guide.

A real sign of one's state is attachment to sensual things, like food, money, clothes, holidays and so on. It is very hard for the very rich to not be attached. I have met a few, however, who have done this...

Too many young people think they can skip to the Dark Night of the Spirit without enduring the Dark Night of the Senses. When one knows one's predominant fault, one knows one is in the Dark Night of the Senses moving into the Dark Night of the Spirit.

One can be way off....imagining things which are not real. For example, too many beginners think they are in the Dark Night when they have not mastered certain types of the lower stages of prayer. St. John of the Cross is a great psychologist, as it were, by understanding the process of holiness. So, too, is Garrigou-Lagrange.

They are very clear and easy to read in comparison to other commentators. But, of course, reading spiritual books is somewhat subjective according to taste and experience.

Just a little reminder....

Dark Night and Grace

A gentle reminder is that the Dark Night is a grace, but one offered to all. How long it takes is up to God. For some, it lasts months and for some years. Again, one is reminded of Blessed Mother Teresa's 50 years in the Dark Night. She lived by faith for a long time.

It seems as though John of the Cross endured a relatively short Dark Night-of nine months. His imprisonment and harsh treatment pushed him into the Dark Night as God allowed.  The poverty of spirit which is needed to enter the Illuminative and Unitive states is, as Kavanaugh points out, a result of a process started by God.

A person cannot initiate this process but a person can stop it, sadly. Do not stop this process by asking for relief or by being ungracious. A stingy heart does not go into the Dark Night

One of the most important aspects of this achievement of purity of spirit, is that one does not find out what one's "immense capacities", as Kavanaugh notes, for dong God's work are and for being one with God is without it. Again, as I have stated, this is the great weakness of the Church, that too many leaders, both lay and clergy, have not responded to the grace of the Dark Night and are working out of ego and selfishness, not God's grace.

There are no short cuts.

to be continued....

More on The Dark Night but Interrupted by Society

I have had an usually busy social day, so I shall be writing some posts on the Dark Night later in the day tomorrow.

Stayed is all from the heart and the head, which is one of the points of St. John, as noted in the last post. One cannot separate heart and head knowledge.


On the Rational in the Dark Night

Too many people ignore the role of the intellect in prayer and in the spiritual life. Unfortunately, this is a result of the charismatic emphasis and new age stress on emotion in religion.

If there is one thing which has ruined the spiritual life of many in the past 50 years, it has been the misunderstanding of the importance of the rational in the spiritual life.

St. John of the Cross and other mystics were not emotionally motivated, nor did he or others look for emotional cookies and cream.

In fact, the memory, understanding and will are ruled by the rational and St. John points this out.

May I remind readers what Kieran Kavanaugh reminds readers in his text, that St. John had classical training. He knew Ovid, Boethius, Dionysius, Gregory, Augustine, Francis, Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas. He knew Aristotle as well.

This is a list which would make most Catholic blush today if asked if they have studied these great minds.

Our faith is not one of mere feelings but of appropriating the Truths which God has handed down through the saints and great Catholic minds.

Why the rational is important is that the will is moved by reason and not by emotions. I am not going to enter the theological fray as to whether memory is part of the intellect or separate. Aquinas states it is part of the intellect, while John and St. Ignatius Loyola separate memory out of the intellect.

If there are two or three spiritual faculties, for the sake of argument, one can say these are memory, intellect and will, or maybe intellect including memory and will.

The point is that reason brings one to apprehend the truth of God.

Knowledge is also a gift of the Holy Spirit. Too many modern commentators split this knowledge into some type of purely charismatic knowledge, which is totally false.

Knowledge involves the intellect and the gift builds on nature and super-naturalizes nature.

To become steeped in the emotions is to seriously stray from the path which God has revealed to us in Scripture and in Tradition. To be anti-intellectual is to be anti-Catholic.

Those who remain stuck in emotional religion are spiritual pygmies and will not be purified on earth.

The will overcomes all affections and all passions. If one is stuck in the emotional pursuit of the spiritual life, one simply will not find God, nor will He allow one to find Him. Why?

Because we are made in the Image and Likeness of God, and that image includes the intellect and free will.

The likeness is grace, given back to us through baptism.

To be continued....

More on the Dark Night in November

I have many posts in the next day or two or three on the Dark Night, via Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh's commentary and translation of this event.

I shall try and simplify the ideas. The first point is that Kavanaugh points out that the ascent of the spirit is initiated by us, but the Dark Night is initiated by God.

I do know this is true. Only God can take us into the passive part of the Dark Night.

The center of the ascent and the Dark Night is the same-humility.

One must really allow God to take all away, all attachments which hold us back from His Pure Love.

When one has the center of humility, as St. John notes, nothing weighs us down, and nothing casts us up. To be in pain and defeat would be the same as being successful.

This is complete detachment. Humility is complete detachment from expectations and the tendency to sin.

Humility is detachment from even the good. This is a great mystery.

St. John writes, "To come to be what you are not you must go by the way in which you are not....and when you come to the possession of all you must possess it without wanting anything."

God takes us there in baby steps. But, these steps involve pain and letting go.

Until one stops looking for consolation and trusts completely in God, humility cannot grow in the soul.

Let humility grow.

to be continued....

My favorite political commentator does it again....

Repeat Post on Prayer

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Next Levels of Prayer-After the Dark Night

People ask me is God can skip steps. God can, but people cannot. We are made up of body and soul, and our nature is such that we grow in steps spiritually as well as physically. The timing of the steps can vary, of course, with great young saints, such as St. Gemma Galgani reaching great heights through grace quickly.

God decides our time-table, but, we must cooperate. Too often, we choose not to cooperate, as it is too hard to face the purgation which must happen in the Dark Night. Now, some people, especially young saints, do not have much purgation. Obviously, the more sinful we are and the older we are having lived, perhaps, unreflective lives, the more intense, and, therefore, perhaps, the longer the Dark Night. We cannot imagine so wonderful a soul as Blessed Mother Teresa as being in the Dark Night for such a long time, but that was God's Will for her.

After the Dark Night, the infused prayer of the passive recollection occurs, which is the beginning of contemplation. This is a prayer of quiet and these stages are part of Mystical Prayer.

St. Teresa describes initial infused prayer, that of supernatural or passive recollection, which precedes the prayer of quiet, as follows, with Garrigou-Lagrange's comments towards the end:
This is a kind of recollection which, I believe, is supernatural (like the prayer of quiet). There is no occasion to retire nor to shut the eyes, nor does it depend on anything exterior; involuntarily the eyes suddenly close and solitude is found. Without any labor of one's own, the temple of which I spoke is reared for the soul in which to pray; the senses and exterior surroundings appear to lose their hold, while the spirit gradually regains its lost sovereignty. . . . 
But do not fancy you can gain it [this recollection] by thinking of God dwelling within you, or by imagining Him as present in your soul. . . . By the divine assistance everyone can practice it, but what I mean is quite a different thing. Sometimes, before they have begun to think of God, . . . the soul is keenly conscious of a delicious sense of recollection. . . . Here it is not in our power to retire into ourselves, unless God gives us the grace. In my opinion, His Majesty only bestows this favor on those who have renounced the world. . . . He thus specially calls them to devote themselves to spiritual things; if they allow Him power to act freely, He will bestow still greater graces on those whom He thus begins calling to a higher life.(30)
The saint adds: "Unless His Majesty has begun to suspend our faculties, I cannot understand how we are to stop thinking, without doing ourselves more harm than good," (31) for then we would remain in idleness or the somnolence of the quietists.

"The supernatural recollection" which St. Teresa describes in the preceding passages is clearly a mystical prayer, the beginning of infused contemplation, for which simplified affective meditation prepares the soul.(32)

Now, I have written on quietism on this blog before-it can be a dangerous trap. The real infused recollection, leading into infused contemplation and the prayer of quiet are the fifth and sixth states of prayer found only in the Illuminative State. This can happen according to some writers after the complete purification of the senses and before the complete purification of the soul, while some authors state that the purification of the senses and that of the soul happen together before the Illuminative State.

In other words, the Dark Night would, in either case, completely finished before the Unitive State, and before the levels of prayer in that state, the subject of the next two posts on this subject.

To be continued.....

Get The Ways of Mental Prayer which Fr. Ripperger recommends. I have not read this myself, but would love to do so.

Looking Ahead to November 22nd

I love this piece by Britten and think it is one of his mini-masterpieces. I have put in on this blog before. As you can see, I am anticipating the Feast of St. Cecilia on November 22nd. Enjoy.

A Culture of Lies

I have written on this subject before, but the events of the last several days prompt me to write again about the growing culture of deceit in Europe.

Daily, I have been in touch with various business men and women who think nothing of lying on a regular basis. Sadly, some of the lies are not only obvious, but unnecessary; that is, the truth would have sufficed.

Talking to a friend of mine who was in the real estate business in California at the height of prosperous times, I found out from him that lying was the name of the game in the business. Another friend of mine who worked in state government told me that he had to leave his high position as lying was not only the norm, but that he was expected to enter into deceitful conversations and meetings.

In the past two days, two men have lied to me about various business and personal events, which I can confer were couched in lies and false information. This happened to me before here and the businesses are the same type.

Why is this so common?

I cannot imagine being friends with someone who lies all the time, or regularly, especially in business. I know who I can trust and who I cannot trust through these habits of lying.

Business used to be built on trust between sellers, buyers, producers and so on.

Not so, not so.

I am sad, as all the people involved are Catholic. They see nothing wrong in lying.

I cannot imagine being married to one of these men. How can one trust a liar?

Here are some reasons why people lie.

One, to create a better image of themselves and their business than what is real.

Two, to live in a state of denial about the reality of the business. This is called rationalization.

Three, to create confusion on purpose for an advantage over a client or another business.

Four, to force others to have an opinion like those being put forward in order to get more support in the lies. Lying is bullying.

Five, to hide things which are illegal.

Six, to cover up real insecurities in the business, such as possible bankruptcy.

And so on...Many people are living in la-la land constructs of their own making. These will fall.

Sadly, there are now two more people on this small island I cannot trust because of out and out lies regarding both business and personal dealings.

Exaggeration is lying as well, and some people do not realize this.

Sad days...and those who are bad are getting worse and those who are good are getting better.

Lying can be a sign of narcissism and as we are living in the age of the narcissist, lying will become common. Here is an excellent and scary article on narcissism and lying.

Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves, Christ tells us. Know who is lying and do not trust those who do this daily.

Bears Repeating; from My Post in February on The Guild Blog

A Time-Machine Back to 1581: the Death of an Enlightenment Democratic Monarchy

In this day and age of relativism, camps of opinion arise like midges on a hike in Alaska. 
One brushes away one set of  "arguments", only to find dozens flying into one's face. 
The media frenzy over the events of the past three weeks is not going to subside. 
On the contrary, we Catholics are entering into a new era of Church-bashing which will not go away.

The days of toleration for differing religious opinions, or at least, Catholic teaching, is over.

I watched two days of the Parliament hearings of witnesses regarding the civil union or 
rather same-sex-marriage act. I usually do not watch television, but I was visiting a friend 
who wanted to watch this swarm of opinions based on sola fide, sola scriptura;
each man and woman on the panel proved to be his or her own pope.

The Church of England witnesses, as they were called, had eloquent and keen questions and answers. 
So did Archbishop Peter Smith and his legal team. I was impressed by the firm and clear positions given by 
these two groups.

Not so other groups, like the Church of Wales representatives, who waffled.

What did astound me was the out and out rudeness of some of the questioners, all of them MPs, 
not to be named here. One can look at my blog for names. I merely want to point out the lack of respect towards those representatives of organized religion. At several places in the presentation of answers by 
Archbishop Peter Smith, some members laughed out loud in derision for the Catholic position on marriage, 
pre-marital sex, and our anti-contraception, anti-abortion positions.

What came to my mind was that I could have been in a time-machine, taken back to the 
interrogations of Edmund Campion, Ralph Sherwin, or Robert Southwell et al.

The entire meeting of this Parliament panel on both days was a sham. The smug hypocritical statements 
of the members of Parliament shone out like words of old transcripts in a history of Recusant trials.

Parliament determines moral and religious policy in Britain, not the churches.

Parliament in 2013 mirrors Parliament in 1581, or 1585 or 1681, this last the year of the martyrdom 
of St. Oliver Plunkett. I have seen his head in St. Peter's Church, Drogheda. His face is peaceful, but reveals pain.

We honour martyrs in the Catholic Church almost daily. We of this Guild honour Titus Brandsma, 
who was martyred and is a Blessed. But, do we really want martyrs in 2013? 
Do we feel uncomfortable watching Peter Smith being derided? Do we want our leaders to stand firm 
on the ancient teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?

I hope we stand with our real Catholic leaders.

I hope we can see clearly that the actions of Parliament will lead to the type of society created under 
Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, where those who kept the Faith were fined, suffered financial loss, ruin, 
disgrace, if not martyrdom. Catholics will not be able to be registrars or superintendents of registrars. 
Catholics may not be able to be teachers in some schools. The Catholic priests may be in a position of 
disobedience to certain laws after judicial decisions.

Parliament acts just as it has since the Protestant Revolt. Parliament was given powers over the 
private consciences of the people of Britain and it will take those powers and use those again and 
again and again. Five hundred years of practice makes this pattern of oppression all too easy. There are precedences. 

We are witnessing the death of the modern Enlightenment democracy as a philosophy of governance.
We are witnessing the sliding back to a time when religions were not allowed to stand in the marketplace 
and speak Truth.

The powers that be have not changed their philosophies. They have renewed an older pattern of intolerance 
which is wedded to the very power of Parliament.

The Catholic Church has not changed Her Truths, Revelation and Tradition.

We are, again, Non-Conformists, and as in the past, consequences will follow strongly held beliefs.

I hope those who belong to the Guild of the martyr Titus Brandsma know how to stand firm 
in the storms that will blow across Great Britain. We have an excellent example. 
Brandsma upheld the bishops' decisions and the clarity of teaching that Catholicism and Nazism clashed. 
Catholicism will always clash with falsehood.

As Catholic journalists, we of this Guild can follow our patron to whatever consequences may follow.

I, for one, will write as long as I can for Christ and His Church.