The Right Reaction to Sin

Death Comes to the Dinner Table‘ by Giovanni Martinelli

In the last blog, we established that having a sensitive nature is not a problem. It is how our sensitive nature responds to certain stimuli that may or may not be a problem. Judging whether or not our sensitive nature is reacting in the right way can be helped by assessing whether or not our reaction is aligned with the feelings of Our Lord.  Following on from this, this article examines the contrast between our reaction and Our Lord’s reaction to that most disturbing of horrors – sin.

            Societies of today, particularly in Western countries, are immersed in the most atrocious filth and garbage. We have sodomites as leaders of countries and we have just been through a month which takes ‘pride’ in the most scandalous, despicable and disordered of sinful behaviours, a sin which cries to Heaven for vengeance. We are deliberately surrounded by and exposed to talk and news of the most horrific scandals. Due to our innate sensitive nature, if we are not very careful, we gradually become soaked in this filth ourselves. The natural abhorrence towards certain vices, which God has planted in our souls, becomes diminished.  Surrounded by and immersed in the filth, we develop a numbed sensitivity to the horrors we are exposed to until eventually we either fail to react the way we should to these horrors or, due to our tendency toward evil, we start embracing and loving the filth itself. It is like death has arrived at our dinner table and we are not even shocked by his arrival as we are already half dead ourselves. Fr Ripperger highlights this desensitisation when speaking about fornication – ‘Culturally, in the past, fornication was looked down upon as a great moral and societal evil because of all the evil effects to the individual and society, one of which is the general erosion of morality within a society.  As fornication and sexual licence became more pervasive, the society began finding it difficult to judge fornication as morally evil and today it has virtually no evil connotation at all.  What started out as particular individual difficulties with respect to passions has affected, over the long haul, the universal judgement of society about the evil of fornication in general.’ (1). To combat this ‘erosion of morality’ and this societal acceptance of filth, there needs to be a re-educating about what sin really is coupled with a reawakening of the correct response to it. There is an ordered, healthy and sane reaction to sin.  This blog will highlight what this is and how we can cultivate this reaction in ourselves.

What Sin Is

            Sin is rebellious opposition to God’s will. It is either a turning away from God (venial sin) or the complete severing of friendship with God (mortal sin).  It is a ‘destructive, disruptive thing. It un-does, it uncreates.’ – Fr Steuart (2). It is a voluntary rejection of Him Who wills our eternal happiness. It is a rejection of Him who is Truth Himself. It is a prioritising of our self-love over reality and it can thus it has been described as the embracing of unreality – Fr Leen (3). ‘Every sin is a conscious disordered manifestation of self-centredness.’ – Fr Fahey (4). It a scorning of the Divine Plan for our souls:

‘When we commit sin we inconsiderately prefer a finite good to God, the infinite Good.  If our sin is mortal our minds despise God to that extent that they judge that finite good worthy of being our god, and as such decree it to be the final object of our existence. If our sin is venial our minds scorn the friendship of God to the extent we gratify our self-love…Sin is a revolt, an act of the basest contempt and the vilest ingratitude towards the God of infinite majesty and goodness; an act which renews the cause of the death of Jesus Christ…From a child of God and an heir to the kingdom of heaven it degrades him into a slave of Satan, and condemns him to the punishment of hell.’ – Fr Geiermann (5). 

            Sin is also a rejection of His infinite love. To capture some of the awfulness of sin vivid comparisons to physical sufferings were often used by wise Catholic priests/writers. As Fr Gerard (6) says:

Sin is like a disorder and confusion in the moral law. The human spirit is gifted with freedom. The fair and full use of that freedom, however, depends on the way in which it is adjusted to certain fore-ordained laws. The spirit, even as the body, is ruled by a legal system designed for its own goodness and beauty. It may fall in with its laws and act according to their guidance; or it may go against them and do violence to all their directive influence. The latter course is to bring on the leprosy of sin. To turn away from God the everlasting Good and to turn away from Him for the sake of some passing good is to throw order into chaos, to turn health into disease, and, instead of life without end, to produce death without end.

Or as Fr Leen (3) explains:

If we were to multiply that desolation [of the world wars] a thousand fold, and embrace the whole world, and countless numbers of possible worlds and conceive them swept by the same desolation, the picture of horror would be of appalling magnitude. Yet all that falls short – infinitely short – of the evil involved in one mortal sin. Because all that destruction of human work and human life is the ruin of something finite. But mortal sin is ‘the evil of God’, the ruin not of the Divine, but of something that borders on the Infinite…There is something Infinite in the evil of sin. Though committed by a finite creature, once committed it passes out of his control, it affronts God and has a quasi-infinite malice.’

But it is not just mortal sin but all sin that turns us away from Love:

‘Sin is un-love, and it is therefore dead and death-dealing like a corpse.  The least sin is a more devastating agent of dissolution and corruption to the soul of man than every plague in history has been to his body.  The Church does not use exaggeration when she says that no material disaster can be compared in magnitude of evil to the effect of one deliberate venial sin.’ – Fr Steuart (2).

All these descriptions are designed to give us a true understanding of sin and help us to see the horror that it is and the destruction it causes.

Along with the vivid descriptions above, we have Fr Faber’s (7) outline of Our Lord’s hatred and abhorrence of sin, keenly felt and experienced through His Sacred Humanity:

‘As the soul is to the body, so was the sensitiveness and sympathy of our Lord’s Soul to the delicacy and susceptibility of his Body. Even to us, with our common gift of faith, the word sin is a real terror. It expresses a whole world of darkness. It is the negation of all that is bright, hopeful, desirable, or attractive. The possibility of our sinning is a thought to make us tremble. The likelihood of our sinning is our deepest fear; and our actual sin is by far our most real unhappiness. Yet we can scarcely understand the shrinking heavenly-mindedness which caused saints to fade away at the bare mention of the name of sin. Such a fact is an index to us of sublimities of love and of union with God which are to us little better than terms of mystical theology, respectfully believed in, but out of the range, not only of our experience, but of our comprehension also. How far then are we from being able to fathom our Lord’s horror of sin! The uncreated sanctity of his Divine Person had communicated to his Human Soul an unspeakable spotlessness, together with such a tenderness regarding the honour and purity of God as it is impossible for us to picture to ourselves, except in the most inadequate manner. If we might venture to think of disease as an emblem of a thing so holy, we might say that the wretched and unclean world was to our Lord’s shrinking Soul what the meridian beam of the sun would be to a wounded eye. It was something intolerable. It was a spiritual agony, seemingly unendurable for a moment, yet actually endured his whole life long.’

            Now, when we read the descriptions of sin from these Catholic priests above do we really feel what they are trying to tell us about the horror of sin? When we read Fr Faber’s description of Our Lord’s disgust at sin, do we begin to realise how non-reactive and indifferent we are to the sin that surrounds us? Do we really sense what sin actually is? Honest answers to these questions show us that we have become numb to the reality of sin. Our constant exposure to the filth and disorder of the world and our lack of understanding of the infinite goodness of God who is Love Himself has darkened our minds and dampened our natural abhorrence to certain vices.  Because we don’t understand the toxicity of sin, including venial sin, we start out on the slippery and almost imperceptible downward slope to mortal sin and eternal damnation. ‘It is simply a psychological law that repeated venial sin, committed with all due deliberation, must of necessity lessen in the soul the horror for sin and evil generally. It must deprive it of that delicacy of conscience which is the soul’s greatest safeguard. The removal of these safeguards makes the soul an easy prey to serious moral transgression.’ – Fr Vonier (8). Eventually, if we continue to slide into further sin, our conscience will become seared. A conscience barely reacting to the most heinous of sins severely reduces the chances of recovery from this disease, as Fr Meyer (9) explains,

‘Will they acquire again that delicacy of conscience which they have forfeited? Without a miracle of grace, such a change of heart seems impossible.  And who will dare look for a miracle in favour of those who have made themselves unworthy even of the ordinary aids of grace? It is possible, no doubt, because ‘with God are all things possible.’ But no one, certainly, that is in his sober senses, would stake his own salvation upon it.’

            So, let us be honest and acknowledge that we do not have the right idea or reaction to the horror that sin is. God cannot err nor sin as He is infinite Truth and Goodness. He has created us in His image so that we may know, honour, and love Him and, by doing so, we gain eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. He does not force us to accept His invitation as He has given us free will. We decide on the route we wish to take. By sinning, we scorn this most loving of invitations and, if we die unrepentant, we condemn ourselves to eternal misery. What madness to do so! Yet, this is the madness that many choose. Now, one of the keys for choosing the right path is developing the right understanding and reaction to sin. This involves a healthy dose of education about the reality of sin and the fortification of our minds in this reality, which is especially necessary in these times of moral depravity. We must detox our minds from the mires into which they have sunk. We must avoid frivolous relations with sin or light talk of it. The advice of Fr Leen (3) to missionary nuns applies equally to us today, as it is in our own countries where we are in daily contact with sin:

‘School yourselves never to speak lightly of what is mortal sin, of deeds which imply violation of God’s law. Never speak without horror of disregard for, or violation of, God’s law. That warning is not an idle one. You are going to a foreign country to combat sin; you will be brought up against it daily, and it could easily happen that your feelings could become blunted to the awfulness of sin. That is what happens to us priests if we do not stir up our faith often.

        Even here at home if you read of crimes in the newspapers, murders, sins of pride, perjury, etc., do not think lightly of it. Always remember that these things are mortal sins, and mortal sin is an appalling calamity, no matter by whom it is committed.’

            These efforts to avoid the contamination of sin require mortification of our curiosity, vigilance and perseverance but it is by these efforts that our happiness, even in this life, is increased rather than hindered, as Fr Faber (10) explains:

‘The soul of sadness is self-love. We are sad because we are weary of well-doing and of strict living.  The great secret of our cheerfulness was our anxiety and diligence to avoid venial sins, and our ingenious industry to root them out. We have now become negligent on that very point, and therefore we are sad. If indeed we still try, as much as we did before, to avoid actual venial sins, we have lost the courage to keep ourselves away from many pleasant times and places which we know to be to us occasions of venial sin. We content ourselves with an indistinct self-confidence that we shall not fall; and at once the light of God’s countenance becomes indistinct also, and the fountain of inward joy ceases to flow.’

            Most importantly, we need supernatural grace to give us the strength to combat and understand sin.  A sincere, humble, and well-prepared for confession is where this strength and understanding is to be found. ‘You will find a great alleviation of soul, you will find a great refreshment and above all you will receive that special grace of the Sacrament of Penance – a great strengthening against the evil tendencies in yourself, because you receive some of God’s own horror and aversion for sin and everything leading to it.’ – Fr Leen (3). It is here where Our Lord through His representative, the priest, provides the means for cleansing our souls. But, it is up to us to prepare for this cleansing.  Through the Sacrament of Penance we are offered the graces to die to self and live for God as Fr Leen (11) explains:

‘To live to God we must die to sin, and this death to sin cannot be achieved without its own passion. It was through the Cross that the world was redeemed – it remains that by the Cross and the Cross only, personally borne and endured, each individual enters fully into the redemption and is sanctified.  Self must die in order that God may reign in undisputed sway in us.’

So let us be horrified by the slightest sight and sound of sin. Let us rid our lives of sin and not look back on it with fondness or pleasure but instead remind ourselves how offensive it is to God.  ‘It behoves us to kindle our contrition and repentance as much as we possibly can, so that it may reach even to the very smallest appearance of sin. Thus it was that the Magdalen, when converted, so entirely lost all taste for her past sin and its pleasures, that she never again cast back one thought upon them; and David declared that he hated not only sin itself, but every path and way which led thereto.’ – St Francis de Sales (12). As Fr Geiermann (5) notes, ‘The spirit of compunction (‘the habitual grief of the soul arising from a constant remembrance of our own sinfulness’) prompts us to do violence to ourselves for the kingdom of heaven.’ Our weakness is always something we must keep in mind. And let us remember that, due to the effects of Original Sin, we ‘are more susceptible to occasions of sin than snow is to fire.’ – Fr Scupoli (13). 

This battle against sin is one we all must face and one, where only the strong, wise, humble, and persevering, will be victorious. Let us cultivate the right attitude and reaction to sin. Finally, ‘unless we keep the Christian ideal and the evil of sin vividly before our minds, they will gradually fade away, and, in proportion as they do, will they be replaced by worldly-mindedness and selfishness of heart.’ – Fr Geiermann (5). So let us keep the final goal of sanctity, the Christian ideal, and Heaven in our minds so that we will fly from all occasions of sin. And lest we feel overcome with the extent of our sinfulness and we fear that we are completely lost in the mire let us remember the mercy and goodness of Our Father who lovingly embraces the prodigal son on his return. As we run from sin let us run into the arms of Our Loving Father as:

The essence of Christian perfection consists in union with God by charity…In other words, charity is the force uniting man to God, and sin the force drawing him away.’ – Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen

God bless you in your efforts to cultivate the right attitude and reaction to sin and by the grace of God, may this article be of some help in aiding you to do so.

References:

  1. Fr Ripperger, C. (2013). Introduction to the Science of Mental Health. Lincoln: Sensus Traditionis Press
  2. Fr Steuart, R. H. J. (1934). World Intangible. London: Longmans, Green & Co.
  3. Fr Leen, E. (1958). My Last Retreat. Cork: Mercier Press.
  4. Fr Fahey, D. (1945). The Mystical Body of Christ and the Reorganisation of Society. Palmdale, California: Christian Book Club of America.
  5. Fr Geiermann, P. (1914). The Narrow Way’. New York: Benziger Brothers. Available here: https://archive.org/details/narrowwaybriefcl00geie
  6. Fr Gerard, T. J. (1908). The Cords of Adam. Republished by SSPX Press, Kansas.
  7. Fr Faber, F. W. (republished, 1955). Bethlehem. Baltimore: John Murphy Co.
  8. Fr Vonier, A. (1913). The Human Soul and Its Relation to Other Spirits. London: B. Herder Books. Available here: https://archive.org/details/humansoulitsrela00voni
  9. Fr Meyer, R. J. (1906). Science of the Saints. St. Louis: B. Herder Books. Available here: https://archive.org/details/scienceofsaints01meyeuoft/page/n5/mode/2up
  10. Fr Faber, F. W. (republished, 1960). Growth in Holiness. London: Thomas Richardson & Son. Available here: https://archive.org/details/GrowthInHoliness/page/n7/mode/2up
  11. Fr Leen, E. (1944). In The Likeness of Christ. New York: Sheed & Ward. Available for online borrowing here: https://archive.org/details/inlikenessofchri0000leen/mode/2up
  12. St. Francis de Sales, (original 1600’s). The Devout Life. Copy available here: https://www.catholicspiritualdirection.org/devoutlife.pdf
  13. Fr Gabriel of St. Margaret Mary (1964). Divine Intimacy. New York: Desclee Co.

The Right Use of Emotion


Education, which is worthy of the name, must expand all the human faculties with all their activities and properties…They must be such as will improve the memory, discipline the understanding, refine the feelings, cultivate the taste, form the manners.’
– Fr R J Meyer, ‘Science of the Saints’ (1)

The trials and difficulties of life hit our emotions hard at times. The violent peaks and troughs of our emotions can sometimes leave us feeling like we have just been on a rollercoaster ride.  We can be desperate to find some relief from our unruly passions. There are many ways that we try to ‘refine these feelings’. We may go to a doctor to help us find some way of balancing or controlling our emotions.  Often, we are given drugs that simply numb our sensitivity. For some, this appears to dull their conscience enough to keep them circling around on the rat wheel. For others, these drugs only cause agitation in their bodies, e.g., increased anxiety, with these toxic drugs often numbing them enough so that they can carry out crimes of the most disturbing and violent nature, e.g., homicidal and suicidal acts or tendencies.

At other times, we try to ‘discipline the understanding’ to try to change our emotional reactions.  We may go down the psychotherapeutic or counselling route in our efforts to help us to understand or control our emotions.  Depending on what psychotherapy we go to, the importance of emotions may be overrated, e.g., emotionally focused therapy, or underrated, e.g., rational emotive behaviour therapy. Whatever modern treatment we engage in there is no adequate solution to the problem of these pesky, volatile emotions.  Some short-term relief can be given by professionals who tell people that society and its traditional ‘prejudicies’, e.g., ‘homophobia’, sexism, are the cause of their niggling consciences, thus placating their consciences for a brief period. Yet, most of us realise, even if we only feel it dimly at times, that these modern approaches do not provide us with the solutions we crave, i.e., the peacefulness and happiness the depths of our souls desire. Soon enough, we get sick of being drugged up and numbed and that guilt or anxiety that we taught we could rationalise away soon comes back to haunt us. So, what to do about those emotions which won’t leave us at peace? 

‘Every theory which discredits the true nature of man or denies the need of a Divine Remedy is only intensifying the disease which it attempts to cure.  The psychopathic messes into which many tumble are due either to a want of a knowledge of human nature or to a want of a genuine religion.’ – Bishop Fulton Sheen (‘Peace of Soul’) (2)

Before we set out to answer this question, we must ground ourselves in reality. Various therapists and professionals will have different theories on emotion based on their beliefs about reality. In the rationalist world of today, professionals will try to come up with theories about emotion without recourse to the faith and, therefore, without an understanding of the reality of what man is, i.e., a body and soul created by God, destined for either eternal happiness or eternal misery. Without this understanding they fail to see the part that emotions play in this journey. As they do not have a clear understanding themselves of man’s ultimate destiny they only confuse their clients more and more. As Bishop Fulton Sheen notes, they only intensify the disease that they are seeking to cure. So, if the solution to getting a handle on our emotions is not to be found amidst the various branches of modern psychotherapy, where, then, can we receive the education we must desperately need to help us to find peace?

‘[Rationalists] see the world around them swayed by emotional propaganda – they have learned from tradition that youth is sentimental – and they conclude that the best thing they can do is to fortify the minds of young people against emotion. My own experience as a teacher tells an opposite tale. For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is not infallible protection against a soft head.’ – C S Lewis (‘The Abolition of Man’) (3)

There is no getting away from emotions. C S Lewis was right in outlining how the right defence against false sentiments is to ‘not to fortify the minds of young people against emotion’ but to ‘inculcate just sentiments’ into starving souls. In giving man both a body and a soul, God gave man a sensitive nature. Thus, we are bound by this sensitive nature. Today, like the times of C S Lewis, people are being swayed and manipulated by emotional propaganda. Yet, the solution remains the same – the inculcation or cultivation of just sentiments rather than the rejection or misunderstanding of sentiment and man’s sensitivity. 

In Defence of Sensitivity

Some of us have a more sensitive nature than others.  This is obvious from experience. Now, whether or not someone is more or less sensitive has no merit, in and of itself. Merit is bestowed based on how we use the gifts that God has given us.  Yet, in this rationalist and materialist age where normality is largely seen as clustering around the average results on some psychometric test developed by rationalist atheists and where any display of strong emotion is often ridiculed or scorned, there is a need to defend man’s innate sensitivity. The reason for this scorning of our sensitive nature appears to be due to the erratic and irrational behaviour we constantly see around us today. It also stems from our own frustrated inability to get a handle on our sensitive nature.  As a result, there is a temptation to mock our sensitive nature or try to rid ourselves of it. However, to control our sensitivity, the solution is not to reject sensitivity or crush it into oblivion. Instead, we must try to properly understand it and the part it plays in helping us toward peace and happiness.

Sensitive Men 

From a philosophical point of view, there appears to be a strong relationship between intellectual ability and sensitivity. For example, speaking of St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest Doctor of the Church, Jacques Maritain notes that ‘his flesh…was the delicate and sensitive flesh which Aristotle says is peculiar to those endowed with great power of intellect’ and ‘he was so sensitive that the least bodily hurt gave him exquisite pain.’ (4). St. Thomas is an example of a sensitive man who used his sensitivity to give glory and honour to God.  However, the greatest example of how we should view sensitivity is given to us by God Himself. By being clothed in our human flesh when God became man Our Lord gives us insight into how we should view sensitivity. When He took on our sensitive nature, His sensitivity was far greater than that of any man, as Fr Faber, in his excellent book, ‘Bethlehem’ (5) explains: ‘He chose such a temperament of Body as should be able to endure the floods of glory he would pour into it. He chose one whose extreme sensitiveness might almost aid, rather than impede, the delicate operations of his magnificent Soul. He chose one whose beautiful texture caused it to be hereafter such an instrument of suffering as has never existed elsewhere amid all the immense capabilities of created life.’ AND ‘The tenderness of his Sacred Heart was perfect, in the fullest sense of the word. No one had ever been gifted with affections like his. There has never been a sensitiveness which could be thought of alongside of his. In their strength, in their depth, in their fidelity, in their delicacy, never had human affections been so divinely impassioned.’ These facts about one of the greatest saints and, more importantly, God Himself should help us to see that sensitivity, in and of itself, should not be scorned or ridiculed. While none of us are born with a sensitivity as sensitive as Our Lord’s and only some of us approach the sensitivity of St. Thomas, all of us are born with the ability to feel and experience sensations. So, what use should we make of our sensitivity? 

‘When God’s grace, which is always given in answer to prayer, imparts the power to bring home to oneself what Jesus felt, what thoughts traversed His mind, what emotions stirred His soul – in a word, when it is given one to realise in some measure how He humanly reacted to all the circumstances of His life, then one begins to walk with assured step on the road that leads to holiness.’ – Fr Edward Leen (‘In The Likeness of Christ’) (6)

Above, Fr Edward Leen gives us a short description of what effects contemplation on the sensations and emotions Our Lord experienced while in this world should have on us.  Fr Leen continues: ‘Strong in His resolve to tread the path marked out for Him by Divine Providence, He did not use His life, His energies or His talents to minister to His own satisfaction, or to gratify His egoism. Though his sensitive nature was wounded through and through by hostility, unkindness, ingratitude, and want of understanding, He allowed nothing that He suffered from others to modify in the least the perfection of His attitude towards them.  At all times He bore Himself with the same calm, unchanging, unbroken, undeviating fortitude.  He wasted no valuable time in repining or in self-pity; He wasted no energy in rebellion against circumstances; and He did not passively acquiesce to the inevitable with a gesture of indifference or despair. The whole attention of His great Soul was concentrated on the doing of the task that the occasion offered, never once reflecting on what it should mean to Himself in the eyes of men, satisfied that He, in the doing of it, should be approved of in the sight of God.’ (my emphasis). While we will never experience or feel, to the same extent, the pain inflicted on the gentle and sensitive Body of Our Lord, our sensitive nature will inevitably be wounded in this life. Unlike Him, we will, at times, respond to this wounding of our sensitive nature with self-pity and despair.  Due to Original Sin, our sensitive nature will rebel against the dictates of reason and faith. We can then start to begin to curse the feebleness and disobedience of our rebellious body.  We want to be rid of all emotion and sensation and we can often drown ourselves in drink or drugs to try to do so. At other times, we may try to combat life in a stoic way pretending that we are above and unaffected by the sways of emotion. Alternatively, we can contemplate Him Who, while not having any rebellious or disordered emotions, still felt the stirring of emotions within His soul.

The hearts of Jesus and Mary and Joseph were not insensible to any legitimate human feeling or emotion.’ – Fr Leen (‘In The Likeness of Christ’)

Just like Our Lord, the example of the Holy Family teaches us that the Christian life is not about ridding oneself of one’s feelings. The Catholic Faith teaches us to contemplate on and pray about the joys and sorrows of Our Lady and St. Joseph. These devotions give us a better understanding of the Christian way and the Life of Our Lord. While under the care of St. Joseph and Our Lady, Our Lord felt many emotions, Our Lord felt joy, Our Lord cried, Our Lord shivered, Our Lord suffered. When He had grown to Manhood, emotions, felt through His exquisitely sensitive Heart and Body, did not cease. He became intimately involved in the suffering of man and suffered out of love for us. In a world which often promotes the idea of stoic detachment from our own or our neighbour’s suffering Our Lord’s example shows how running away from suffering in this life is not an option. He took on our sensitive nature, not so we could escape from the suffering our sensitive nature inevitably causes us in this life, but so we would know how to use this sensitivity in the right way.

‘[The Church] does not deny emotions, any more than it denies hunger; the Church only asks that, when a man sits at table, he shall not eat like a pig.’ – Bishop Fulton Sheen (‘Peace of Soul’)

Christ does not expect us to be emotionless or stoic. His life in this world is proof of this. However, He does ask us, through His perfect example, to strive to do the will of God. To do this, He asks us to order our passions accordingly so we do not eat like pigs.  He tells us not to allow our unruly passions to make us beastlike. He also shows us that we should not stoically pretend that we are purely spiritual beings who are immune from the sensations we experience in this life. We are men and we cannot escape this reality. Our Lord solely asks us to be virtuous men who strive manfully to do the will of God. He shows us how to do so. He leads the way in showing us how to use our sensitive nature. This nature God has given us can be an ally in helping us to imitate Him or we can use our sensitivity while working toward our own demise. As the great theologian of the 20th century, Garrigou-Lagrange, notes: ‘Whereas in the souls of saints, of missioners, and of martyrs, a perfectly ordered passion is a power that manifests and serves the love of God and neighbour; in the soul of a criminal, it manifests and serves unbridled self-love.’ (7)

Conclusion:

‘St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind and degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.’ – C S Lewis (‘The Abolition of Man’)

Just as it is better that man should both will good and do it in his external act; so also does it belong to the perfection of moral good, that man should be moved unto good, not only in respect of his will, but also in respect of his sensitive appetite; according to Ps. 83:3: “My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God”: where by “heart” we are to understand the intellectual appetite, and by “flesh” the sensitive appetite.’ – St Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, FS, Q24, Art. 3, A[3]) (8)

Trying to numb our emotions, following the false stoic way, allowing our passions to have complete free reign over us, or using our sensitive nature to do bad are not the answers.  Our emotions must be directed by us so that eventually they can aid rather than hinder us in our quest for peace and happiness. As St. Augustine and Aristotle note, we must train our emotions to react in the right way. Following on from this, St Thomas notes that it is good and a sign of perfection if our emotions help us do good.  It is a sign that we are beginning to imitate Christ, Who made perfect use of His sensitive nature in carrying out the will of God. It is a sign of entry into the illuminative way as described by Archbishop Goodier: ‘One learns to see things as God sees them, to feel about things as God feels about them, and to judge life accordingly.’ (9) (my emphasis)

Where Emotional Satisfaction is Found

When we go to Holy Communion, we feel something extraordinary, a well-being which runs through the whole body from head to foot. What is this well-being? It is our Lord, who imparts himself to every part of our body, making it thrill with joy. We are compelled to say, like St. John, It is the Lord! Those who feel nothing at all are much to be pitied! When you have had the happiness of receiving the good God, you feel for some time a gladness, a balm in your heart…Pure souls are always like that; and this union is their strength and happiness.’ – St. John Vianney (10) (my emphasis)

While our emotions are rebellious at times and not always under our control, through prayer and penance and ultimately by the grace of God, we can gain much mastery over them (7). It is through the Faith, the Sacraments, and especially the Holy Eucharist, where the good God imparts the most joy to those souls who have devoutly prepared themselves for Him. How sad it is for those who do not know or feel this! By giving us His body and blood as our strength and happiness He gives us strength so our emotions begin to serve us as allies, rather than opponents, in our efforts to do good. This is the right use of emotion. It is the Catholic response. It is the only response that gives true joy to mind, body, and soul and it is the only one that will give us the strength to carry the crosses life brings without trying to numb ourselves to or run from the pain of it all.    

Finally, may God grant us the grace to be able to gain mastery over our rebellious nature and, for the fight we put up, may our sensitive nature be rewarded with eternal balm in our hearts .

God bless

Footnotes and references:

  1. Fr Meyer, R. J. (1906). Science of the Saints. St. Louis: B. Herder Books. Available here: https://archive.org/details/scienceofsaints01meyeuoft/page/n5/mode/2up
  2. Bishop Sheen, F. S. (1949). Peace of Soul. New York: Whittlesey House. Preview available here: https://archive.org/details/peaceofsoul0000shee/mode/2up
  3. Available here: https://archive.org/details/TheAbolitionOfMan_229/mode/2up
  4. Maritain, J. (1947). St Thomas Aquinas. London: The Catholic Book Club.
  5. Fr Faber, F. (published, 1955). Bethlehem. Baltimore: John Murphy Co.
  6. Extended quote: ‘When God’s grace, which is always given in answer to prayer, imparts the power to bring home to oneself what Jesus felt, what thoughts traversed His mind, what emotions stirred His soul – in a word, when it is given one to realise in some measure how He humanly reacted to all the circumstances of His life, then one begins to walk with assured step on the road that leads to holiness.  This study reveals a wonderful similarity and a still more striking dissimilarity between Him and ourselves.  We discover with delight that He was affected by things much in the same way as we ourselves are. He was hurt by misunderstanding; He was wounded by insult; he delighted in candour and innocence; He was revolted by hypocrisy; He was won by straightforwardness and simplicity; He hated lying and irreverence; He was fearless in the vindication of truth; His heart was deeply touched by those who showed faith and confidence in Him, and finally, He gave Himself without reserve to those who yielded Him their loyalty and their affection.  But just as it dawns on us that in many things our experiences are very like what His must have been, and we discover, too, a profound contrast Him and us.  There is a marked difference presented between the perfection of the manner in which He controlled the stirring of His feelings and guided their expression, and the imperfection and weakness exhibited by us at each moment in the direction of our thoughts, our feelings and our activities, i.e. in the direction of our whole internal and external life. We see that His life was perfectly human and still humanly perfect: and we are obliged to confess that all the movements of our being, feelings, emotions, judgements, speech, attitude of mind and body, though bearing the stamp of humanity, are far short of the human perfection discernible in everything pertaining to the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord.  The realisation of this contrast causes in us a pain and a sorrow which partakes more of the nature of love than grief…The study of Him excites in us the desire to become like Him as Man. And then when our life and our acts bear a resemblance to those of Jesus, God comes and pours His Divinity into our souls in abundance, lavishes on them the gifts of His Grace, and gradually breaking down the barriers that exist between creature and Creator, initiates souls into the happiness that accompanies union with the Divinity.  Great happiness results from this union, even in the imperfect mode of it that belongs to the condition of our state of exile on earth.  This is the whole theory of sanctity.’ – Fr Edward Leen (‘In the Likeness of Christ’), p. 197-199.  (This book is an excellent source for coming to know Our Lord’s Humanity). Available to borrow here: https://archive.org/details/inlikenessofchri0000leen/mode/2up
  7. In Volume 1 of the ‘Three Ages of the Interior Life’, Garrigou-Lagrange offers an excellent outline of the means of gaining mastery over our disobedient. This includes spiritual reading, spiritual direction, prayer, mortification and the Sacraments. See here: https://archive.org/details/threeagesofinter0001garr/mode/2up
  8. Summa Theologica available at: http://summa-theologiae.org/question/14303.htm
  9. Archbishop Goodier (1938). An Introduction to the Study of Ascetical and Mystical Theology. London: Burns & Oates. Available to borrow here: https://archive.org/details/introductiontost0000good_s5s0
  10. Convert, A. H (1923). ‘Eucharistic Meditations – Extracts from the Writings and Instructions of St. John Vianney’

Note: The article above is mainly a defence of sensitivity as sensitivity is often misunderstood or abused today. However, an excerpt is posted below from the book, ‘Cords of Adam’ by Fr Thomas J. Gerard (published: 1908), so it is understood that sentiment and sensitivity to emotion can serve as an aid or a hindrance to true devotion and happiness. Fr Gerard makes many similar points to the ones made above about the emotional nature of man but it also outlines the dangers associated with sentiment which are worth being aware. We may taste the sweetness of the Lord (Psalms 33:9) at times, especially after Holy Communion as St. John Vianney notes, but lest this serve as a means to ensnare us in spiritual pride the following piece is worth taking onboard :

 ‘The abuse of emotion in religion has been stigmatised as sentimentalism. But the abuse of this abuse may easily lead to another equally great mistake, namely, that of undervaluing the use of emotion in religion. Man is a rational animal and much more. He is also a volitional and emotional animal. Since human nature then is as it is, the emotions must ever have their proper place assigned to them in the life of devotion.’ – p. 60

‘There is a middle way between a cold passionless religion and a religion which is all sighs and ejaculations. The correct measure of sentiment is the measure in which it leads to right action and conduct.

            There is a tendency in this northern climate of ours to undervalue the use of emotion in religion. I question very much whether that prayer in the Missal is often used, the prayer for the gift of tears. Simpering in an Englishman or an American would probably be accounted to him as softness if not something worse. Still there is that in most men which in an Italian is represented by tears. There is some tremulant emotion, however slight, a kind of wincing at the thought of sin committed, a feeling of horror at the thought of having offended God. Well, this feeling, wincing or tremulant emotion is valuable and to be encouraged just in so far as it tends to real purpose of amendment; and in so far as it does not it must be reckoned as worthless.  The absence of feeling in those who are living the spiritual life seriously has been considered a recognised phase in the process of spiritual development. It is a trial intended to test the firmness of the will. The will that can go in spite of the absence of all sensible devotion may content itself that it is fairly well flourishing in spiritual growth. Indeed so valuable is this test that it is spoken of as a ‘dark night,’ and at the same time a ‘night more lovely than the dawn,’ a light guiding me ‘more surely than the noon-day sun.’ This absence, however, derives its value from the contrast to the presence. The presence of emotion, therefore, is to be valued as providing a breathing time against the coming absence. The absence is to be valued as providing a test of the efficacious firmness of the will. There may be souls who are habitually dry. But they are not normal cases. The constant absence of all emotion may be a sign of carelessness and want of interest in the spiritual life, although not necessarily so. It is certainly, however, a sign that the conscience needs examination.  If the result of examination shows that the ordinary means are being taken to promote interest in spiritual matters, then the dryness may be considered as an exercise in will-power; but if it shows that these means are not being taken, then the dryness must be considered as a sign of danger.

            Opposed to the occasional and constant absence of emotion is the constant presence of it. This equally affords a reason for self-examination. The value of the constant presence is more easily weighed than the value of the constant absence. It has an art and a music and a literature all to itself. These are almost entirely devoid of any solid intellectual characteristic. They affect rather loud clashing colour, sensual emasculated tone and senseless incoherent ejaculation. The life of Our Lord is read greedily in the visions of the saints, whilst that in the gospels is found dry and uninteresting. Not that he descriptions of St. Gertrude and Blessed Margaret Mary and Sister Catherine Emmerich do not give us wondrous insights into the spirit of the life of Christ, but that the soul which interests itself in nothing but sensible devotion misses the whole of that spirit and contents itself with the letter through which the spirit is meant to be conveyed. The altogether emotional devotion has its own peculiar sins too. These are the secret sins of spiritual pride and self-righteousness and the one predominant open sin of talking of the faults of others.

            The remedy for all these vagaries is a return to the standard of the gospel. Christ will be served as He wishes and not as we wish. He has given us affections and emotions to help us in that service. His one business on earth is to do the will of His Heavenly Father, to save souls by the undoing and by the hindrance of sin. In so far then as emotion and affection draw us nearer to Him and keep us away from sin, they are being rightly used. In so far as they are made an end or a pleasure in themselves they are being used wrongly. To love Christ because of his obvious kindness and gentleness is good in its way, but not precisely what He wants. What He desires is practical sympathy which will do and live for His cause, the salvation of souls.  The women who met Him on His way to crucifixion had a gift of tears, but not exactly the gift of tears which He preferred. ‘Weep not for Me,’ He said, ‘but for yourselves and your children: not for My sufferings, but for your sins which cause them.’

            So also was it when Our Lady found Him in the temple. The mother and father had sought the Child sorrowing. Their affection, however, although of the purest and best, needed to be directed to a higher service than their natural satisfaction. ‘Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ How much more direction than does affection need which in comparison is so gross and carnal? The true test of right cultivation is the fruit which the emotions bring forth. ‘Not every one that saith to Me Lord, Lord, shall enter in to the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ – p. 62-5

Truth and Freedom Therapy – A Therapy or An Apostolate?


‘Therapy’: ‘Treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.’ (Oxford Dictionary)

This website and the service provided is dedicated to helping people to relieve or heal their disorders. This is partly achieved by pointing out the flaws and errors in other therapies, particularly those provided by psychologists and psychiatrists today. It highlights how psychological and psychiatric theories are built on sand and shows how their disciplines and the vast majority of these professionals are detached from reality. These professionals can not relieve or heal disorders as they do not understand what order is. In essence, they cannot give what they do not have. Various blogs on this website have attempted to show this.

Truth and freedom therapy offers an alternative therapy to these flawed and dangerous approaches. It is a therapy that is grounded in reality. Yet, the more I have reflected on the work I do and the blogs I post the more I realise ‘therapy’ does not quite capture what this service offers nor does it capture the focus or end goal of this service.  

This service is based on the reality that we have immortal souls that are destined for either eternal happiness or eternal damnation. This reality cannot be ignored or minimised. Truth and freedom therapy tries to offer people information that will help them to save their souls and attain eternal happiness.  It tries to draw people away from the errors of the world which attempt to deceive people into believing that this life is all we have. It points out the delusions of those who believe that a loving relationship with God is not essential for true happiness. It guides people toward God, His Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Blessed Mother.  It attempts to point out how sanctity and sanity are intimately intertwined. It highlights how happiness and holiness cannot be separated. It tries to give some guidance on how to sanctify ourselves.  Essentially, it is pointing to the practice of the one true faith, i.e. the Catholic faith, as the means to sanctify ourselves. This is the means of maintaining peace of soul and mind as we traverse through this valley of tears. And, more importantly, it is the only means of attaining eternal happiness for eternity. So, while this service may qualify as a therapy given the definition above, at its core it really is an apostolate. Its end goal is to bring people closer to the truth so that by accepting and following Truth Himself one can be truly free.

Given the emphasis and focus of this service it appears insincere and slightly deceptive in calling this service a therapy when really, at its core, it is an apostolate. I have engaged in an attempt over the last two years to draw people away from the errors of psychology and psychiatry toward the truth of the Catholic Faith. It has been designed in a way to draw people to Truth Himself. In this process, He has drawn myself closer to Him and He has helped me to realise that the solution to the difficulties of this life is much simpler and more straightforward than some of my long-winded blogs have made them out to me.  It is essentially loving Him who is Love Himself.  This is the royal path to true liberty.  Yet, this liberty is not the freedom that the world understands or promotes.  This path is rejected by the world as the world knows that this path involves captivity.  As Fr Faber explains in his excellent book on the interior life, ‘Growth in Holiness’: ‘Grace is the opposite of nature; nature everywhere cries liberty, grace cries captivity.’ God calls us gently to this captivity by revealing to us how much He loves us. He leaves it in our hands whether to accept His invitation to love Him in return. ‘It is true that love may lead to surrender of its freedom, indeed this is usually the goal of great love, nevertheless it is a free surrender, or it is of no worth.’– Archbishop Goodier (‘An Introduction to the Study of Ascetical and Mystical Theology’).  In our world today, especially with the draconian measures being used against us in this manufactured ‘pandemic’, many people are crying for ‘liberty’.  On this website, I have continuously emphasised the spirit of liberty. I have realised that on this website and, most certainly, in the world the graceful cry for captivity is rarely heard. Those who do cry for captivity go against the world’s maxims. They are the ones who are swimming against the current of false ‘liberty’, i.e. licence to do what you want.  These souls are given the graces and strength to keep swimming by their submissive and obedient adherence to Truth and Love Himself. Yet, in all this effort, these are the ones who are really free – ‘Liberty of spirit consists in exemption from cares, from remorse, from attachments; and captivity is the only road to this royal liberty.’ – Fr Faber (‘Growth in Holiness’) (See footnote).

To know and serve God is the only freedom’ – Don Sarda y Salvany (‘Liberalism Is A Sin’)

So, the end goal of truth and freedom therapy (or really this Catholic apostolate) is helping people to become captive to the good God so that they can be truly free.  There is no other route to true liberty. While tyrannical governments restrict natural liberties more and more today, they can never stop us from knowing, loving and serving God.  God gives everyone sufficient grace so that they can choose to serve Him. It is a voluntary choice to do otherwise. How sad for those who choose worldly illusions of ‘freedom’ over true freedom! ‘[Sinners] prefer to be ‘free’; that is, they prefer not to be obliged to free themselves from some slavery.’ – Archbishop Goodier.  How sad it is for those who abuse the gifts God has given them! – ‘How can one be free who is separated from the Most High? What harder or more miserable captivity is there than for the soul to have escaped from the hand of its Creator? How happy are they who find themselves laden with the strong fetters and chains of the gifts of God’s mercy, so that they are unable to gain the power to set themselves free…O free will, thou are the slave of thine own freedom, unless thou be pierced through with the fear and love of Him who created thee!’ (St. Teresa of Avila). 

Sin has produced the disordered times we find ourselves in. The enemies of Christ hold the reigns of worldly power and the conciliar church led by pope Francis are aiding the devil. Yet, the Catholic Faith still remains the shining light of faith, hope, and charity, in a world where these virtues are forgotten about or distorted. These complicated times call for a return to simplicity and Tradition if we are to remain captive to Our Lord and free. The Latin Mass, the Sacraments, Our Lady and the Rosary are key here. The anxiety, the depression, the fear that many of us are experiencing in these dark times can only be lifted by the light of faith and a more childlike trust in the goodness and love of our Heavenly Father who knows our needs before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8).  No therapies can do what a deep, sincere, devoted, and voluntary captivity to Love Himself can do. And the vast majority of therapies today only confuse people more or wrap them further in chains.

So, with this in mind, I am changing the focus of this service/website. It will be focused on apostolate work rather than therapeutic work. I will not be providing counselling or therapy sessions. Rather, I will write occasional blogs, focused on guiding people toward Catholic books, literature, and devotions that will help them develop their spiritual life. I will encourage people to get to the Sacraments wherever they can and find good traditional Catholic priests for guidance and spiritual direction. I, as a layman, might be able to provide some good reading material and some general advice but I cannot provide what good priests can and neither can any other psychological professional. We cannot fill the void left by Catholic priests, bishops and popes abandoning the flock to the wolves of the world since the Vatican II council. I have given my critique of modern psychology, psychiatry, and other therapeutic approaches over the last two years to show that these professionals are doing far more damage than any good in their attempts to fill this void. I invite readers to assess these claims for themselves. Instead of looking for answers to the problems of life from deluded and disordered psychological professionals it is far safer and surer to return to the truth and the simplicity, beauty and majesty of the Catholic Faith. Hopefully, you will see through the illusionary promises of happiness that the world and its slaves offer and by doing so, you will then become captive to the truth.

‘No man can serve two masters’ – Matthew 6:24

The great English martyr, St. Thomas More, served the right Master. He was captivated by Our Lord and His religion. St. Thomas described this life as a prison and we who traverse it as prisoners. He composed a prayer longing to be released from this prison and to attain Heaven where he would be free to love God for all eternity: ‘Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with Thee, not for the avoiding of the calamities of this wretched world; nor so much for the avoiding of the pains of purgatory, nor of the pains of hell neither, nor so much for the attaining of the joys of heaven in respect of mine own commodity, as even for a very love of Thee.’ (‘Sir Thomas More (The Blessed Thomas More)’ by Henri Bremond – p. 146). In his glorious martyrdom, in which he loyally remained captive to Our Lord, his prayer was fulfilled and he was released from this prison. We now have recourse to him so we too may have strength and faith like his to remain loyal captives to Our Lord.

Finally, I will leave you with three quotes from three books I highly recommend, ‘Self Abandonment to Divine Providence’ by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, ‘The Imitation of Christ’, ‘How to Be Happy, How to Be Holy’ by Fr Paul O’Sullivan (available through TAN books) which emphasise the way to true freedom and give advice on how to conduct ourselves in this life to attain this freedom.  May they inspire you to a holier and happier life. 

St. Thomas More, pray for us

‘Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence’ by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

‘God assures to the souls who are faithful to him a glorious victory over the powers of the world and of hell’:

All these monsters [Lucifer and his slaves] come into the world only to exercise the courage of the children of God, and when these have learned enough, God rewards them with the pleasure of killing the monster, and calls new athletes to the arena.  And so this life is a continual spectacle which is the joy of heaven, the training of the saints on earth and the confusion of hell.

Thus, all that is opposed to God’s order does but result in making it more adorable.  All who freely serve iniquity become the slaves of justice, and the divine action builds the Heaven Jerusalem with the ruins of Babylon.’ – p. 160

‘The Imitation’: Book 3, Chapter 38:

On How to Govern Ourselves and on Having Recourse to God in Danger:

Christ: My child, strive diligently for perfect interior freedom and self-mastery in every place, in every action and occupation, so that you be not the slave of anything, but that all things be under your control.

          You must be lord and ruler over your actions, never a bondsman or a mercenary. You must be a free person – similar to a righteous Hebrew – one who is transferred to the rank and the liberty of the children of God. Children of God stand above present things; they contemplate those that are eternal.

           They look upon transient things with the left eye; with the right eye they look at heavenly things. They do not allow temporal things to attract them, nor do they cling to them; instead they make those earthly things serve the end and purpose for which God made and ordained them. For the Divine Artist did not leave anything in all His creatures but what is orderly and governed by laws.

‘How to Be Happy, How to Be Holy’ – Fr Paul O’Sullivan

If we only thought of Heaven, it would console us in our bitterest sorrows. This is what St. Paul means when he says: ‘What are the sorrows and tribulations of this life in comparison with the glory that awaits us?’

            We act like prisoners and slaves content with their miserable lot, who do not long for and sigh for their freedom. We are content with this vale of tears, this poor life with all its miseries, pains, and sorrows.

            The happiness of Heaven should be our aim. It is perfect, complete, absolute. There we shall have no pains, no sorrow, nothing but infinite, immense, complete and perfect happiness. There all our desires shall be satisfied. Our joy will be full.

            Mother of God, help us to understand what Heaven is.’ – p. 167

Footnote:

Extended passage from Fr Faber on this ‘spirit of captivity’ which he describes as one of the weapons to combat the rebellious human spirit found in all of us:

The first [weapon] must be what ascetical writers often call the spirit of captivity. Grace is the opposite of nature; nature everywhere cries liberty, grace cries captivity; and without a resolute good will to take ourselves captive, we shall never beat down the human spirit. The spirit of captivity consists, as an eminent mystical writer tells us, sometimes in submission to a written rule, parcelling out our daily actions so far as our state of life will allow, sometimes in subjection to our director, even against our own judgment, and without feints or wiles, sometimes in conformity to the law of Providence, especially where it thwarts and mortifies our natural liveliness and inclinations, and sometimes also in submission to that attraction of the Holy Spirit which is to many of us like a special revelation. There is also a captivity to frequently recurring, though not daily or obligatory, practices of devotion, a captivity to interior recollection with all its difficulties, trials, and repressions of natural activity; and all mortification is itself but a shape of captivity.’ – p. 190-1

Schizophrenia – What is a Catholic to Make of It?


‘The world holds us to be fools, let us hold it to be mad.’– St. Francis de Sales, ‘The Devout Life’

The vast majority of people today are disconnected from reality.  The vast majority of people are living in their own subjective fantasies disconnected from the truth about existence.  However, in the crazy times we live in Western society, it is the ones who are most insane who are the ones guiding others. For example, the highest number of atheists are to be found in the disciplines of psychiatry and psychology (1). These are the professionals who are appointed as mental health advisors and given the care of the psychologically disturbed. The fact that Joe Biden has recently installed ‘Rachel’ Levine, a dreadfully sick man who seems to believe that he is a woman, to one of the most senior health roles in the USA, only confirms that the world is mad as St. Francis de Sales says. Now, this insane system is set up very well and very cleverly. It has developed gradually over hundreds of years. People have become so brainwashed that anyone who questions the diabolical nature of these current times and provides an outline of the cause and true solution so that we can return to a more sane society will be dismissed as mad, fanatical, delusional, psychotic, schizophrenic, or at the very least, a fool.  Now, this is nothing to marvel at. It has always happened to people who have spoken the truth and it happened to Truth Himself (although the pseudo-scientific terms of psychiatry where not yet then invented by the Jewish mob). To illustrate how some people who speak the truth are dismissed as madmen let us look at how psychiatry uses the terms ‘psychotic’ and ‘schizophrenic’ to ridicule and reject these men and the truth they speak.

Defining ‘Schizophrenia’: 

                                         The World Health Organisation outlines five symptoms for the diagnosis of schizophrenia: hallucinations (hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there), delusions (fixed false beliefs or suspicions not shared by others in the person’s culture and that are firmly held even when there is evidence to the contrary), abnormal behaviour (disorganised behaviour such as wandering aimlessly, mumbling or laughing to self, strange appearance, self-neglect or appearing unkempt), disorganised speech (incoherent or irrelevant speech); and/or disturbances of emotion (marked apathy or disconnect between reported emotion and what is observed such as facial expression or body language).  Now, the last three symptoms are often caused by the drugs people are put on to treat ‘schizophrenia’ or they may be due to experiencing a severely traumatic episode such as sexual abuse or they may be a result of excessive alcohol or drug consumption: ‘Many lose their reason by indulgence in strong drinks, and end their days in a madhouse. By surfeiting many have perished (Ecclus. Xxxvii. 34).’ (‘The Catechism Explained’ – Spirago-Clarke). These explanations for these symptoms are far more reasonable explanations than any vague and unscientific theories about dopamine imbalances, which are put forward by psychiatrists. Further, it is the hallucinations and delusions that are the main criteria for the diagnosis of psychosis or schizophrenia and psychiatry has become the decider of when someone is or is not experiencing hallucinations or delusions. Psychiatrists have the power to decide whether someone is or is not in touch with reality and if someone does not agree with their assessment the State gives them power to detain you and to force you to accept treatment.  Therefore, psychiatrists need to be in touch with reality themselves, otherwise how they can assess whether someone else is?  So, let us look at Catholic teachings from men who were truly in touch with reality and assess how a Catholic would respond to these ‘symptoms’ versus how a typical psychiatrist would respond to them:

Global Conspiracy Theories:

                                           Many people have spoken out against the danger and evil of secret societies that seek to spark revolution and disorder across the world.  Speaking about secret societies and their revolutionary aims, Pope St. Pius X said, ‘Revolution is inspired by Satan himself. Its object is to destroy from top to bottom the edifice of Christianity, and to reconstruct on its ruins, the social order of Paganism.’  Pope Leo XIII warned about the perversity of Freemasonry: ‘To wish to destroy the religion and the Church which God Himself has established, and whose perpetuity He insures by His protection, and to bring back after a lapse of eighteen centuries the manners and customs of the pagans, is signal folly and audacious impiety…In this insane and wicked endeavour we may almost see the implacable hatred and spirit of revenge with which Satan himself is inflamed against Jesus Christ.’ (my emphasis). Long before the conciliar/Novus Ordo church became friends with the world these two great shepherds warned the faithful about the dangers in their midst and the secret, evil attempts of men to destroy Christian civilization.  Pope Leo XIII asked his bishops to ‘tear away the mask of Freemasonry’ and expose it for what it is, while highlighting the devious ploys that they use to ensnare souls in their traps: ‘Generally no one is accustomed to obey crafty and clever men so submissively as those whose soul is weakened and broken down by the domination of the passions, there have been in the sect of the Freemasons some who have plainly determined and purposed that, artfully and of set purpose, the multitude should be satiated with a boundless licence of vice, as when this had been done, it would easily come under their power and authority for any acts of daring.’ Here, Pope Leo XIII only repeats what Freemasons have said themselves, as outlined by Fr Delaporte in his excellent book, ‘The Devil: Does He Exist and What Does He Do?’:  “‘Our final end,’ wrote one of the high dignitaries of that gloomy empire, in 1819, ‘our final end is that of Voltaire and the French Revolution, the annihilation of Catholicity, and even of the Christian idea, forever.’  This then, is their object.  Another will give a sketch of the proceedings; ‘It is decided in our councils that we want no more Christians. Let us make no martyrs, but make vice popular amongst the masses. Let them breathe it through the five senses.  Make hearts vicious, and you will have no more Catholics!’ If that be not diabolical language, what is?’” An obedient and humble Catholic would see that these statements come from authoritative sources and conclude that secret societies have been at work for centuries in attempts to overthrow Christ as King in society.  Now, how would psychiatrists interpret these types of ‘conspiracy theorists’ (as that is what they would call them) today? They would most likely cite them as delusional and paranoid.  These statements would clearly tick the box for ‘fixed false beliefs or suspicions not shared by others in the person’s culture and that are firmly held even when there is evidence to the contrary’. (Psychiatrists would, of course, provide the contrary evidence, i.e. what the majority think and/or their own authority as State sanctioned reality makers). (2)

Being Monitored and Influenced By Beings We Cannot See:

                                               We are surrounded by invisible spirits who influence us for better or worse.  On rare occasions they manifest themselves clearly to our senses. This is most notable in the lives of the saints. Other times, we have some vague sense of their influence. Sometimes if one’s mind is exhausted, one has been through trauma or one lets one’s imagination wander far then one can experience hallucinations. The Catholic Church has always acknowledged this (3). However, the influence of the spiritual world cannot be dismissed. Certain truths must be and have been acknowledged by various men, such as the truth that one can either use the influence and help of one’s guardian angel to obtain eternal salvation or one can use the influence and power of the demons in this life which will ultimately lead to one’s demise if these chains are not broke before you die.  As Fr Vonier in ‘The Human Soul and Its Relations with Other Spirits’ outlines, ‘[Man] may ignore forever, and tender ineffectual, the Angelic partnership; but the day he is resolved to turn it to good account, he will find it to be a mine of hidden moral wealth.  Man may make evil use of the Angelic partnership, as he does of the World in which he lives.’  The angelic and demonic influences are real influences. They can influence our thoughts and our feelings and this may sometimes lead to a sense that one’s thoughts are not one’s own. Some people seem to experience this influence more than others, while others, particularly the saints, saw these spirits with their own eyes. Refusing to give way to the psychiatrist’s more ‘scientific’ or ‘rational’ point will likely get you labelled as hallucinating or at the very least, delusional. 

In addition, people experiencing what is termed ‘psychosis’ or ‘schizophrenia’ often experience the sensation of being constantly watched or under surveillance. Now, in our world today, where there are human forces watching our moves, through CCTV cameras or the monitoring of our social media activity, this is not such a ‘paranoid’ belief. But what if behind it all these people are beginning to realise that they are being watched, but not just by human eyes? Fr Meyer, in ‘Science of the Saints’ clearly outlines this reality: ‘The evil one is wont to study, what kind of conscience each soul has; whether delicate or obtuse.  If he finds it to be delicate, he endeavours to make it more delicate still, in order that, having brought it to a state of extreme anxiety, he may the more easily put it to confusion and flight.  For instance, if he knows that a soul consents to no sin, mortal or venial, nay that it cannot so much as endure the shadow of sin, he does his best to make it judge that there is sin where there is no sin. The obtuse soul or conscience, on the contrary, he strives to make still more obtuse, so that, if before it made light of venial sins, it may now care little for mortal sins also, and daily fear them less.’ An obedient and humble Catholic would see that these conclusions about the angelic and demonic world come from authoritative sources in the form of books approved by the Catholic Church when its leaders were still interested in feeding the flock with truth and protecting it from error. He would conclude that we are continually being monitored by demonic powers. He would acknowledge that our weaknesses are being continuously studied by them and fresh attacks launched.  He would know that this is the reality of the spiritual battle in life and this battle has a major effect on our psychological state. This would be nothing new or surprising to a Catholic and the person reporting these beliefs to him would be seen as perfectly sane. But what is the most likely outcome if you try to explain all this to a psychiatrist today? They may nod their head and even smile to establish a ‘therapeutic relationship’ but behind the smiling they are likely labelling you as hallucinating and delusional.  You have probably told them enough to make them conclude that you are ‘hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there’. (4)

Conclusion:

                                                    Psychiatry may prove a valuable role in people’s life for helping them to suffer meekly and humbly and thus prove a source of good for some people’s sanctification as God, in His infinite goodness, can draw good out of evil. However, apart from this benefit, psychiatry is not a Catholic’s friend.  It is a pseudoscience which has produced terrible fruits and one established and dominated by enemies of Christ (1).  A Catholic who knows his faith and a typical psychiatrist have very different understandings of reality and what sanity or insanity looks like. Either one or the other is in touch with reality. Both cannot be.  The influence of truly Catholic leaders such as popes, bishops, priests and theologians for deciding what order and sanity looks like has decreased, the influence of psychiatrists in deciding these things has increased. There are attempts to wed the Catholic Faith and psychiatry but it is like trying to wed water and oil. They have different frameworks for understanding what sanity is and what order looks like.  Psychiatry is disconnected from the reality of this life, the Catholic Faith is wedded to it. Psychiatry is an ally of Freemasonry in its attempt to established a new non-Catholic world order (5). The shepherds of the Church have now allowed the wolf of psychiatry into its fold and allied themselves with this toxic unscientific nonsense (6). Now some of these shepherds even use psychiatric labels to tar people who speak the truth, such as the attacks on Archbishop Vigano (7) and those ‘rigid’ and ‘insecure’ traditional Catholics (8) who adhere to the teachings of such great popes as Leo XIII and Pope St. Pius X.  It is not a new tactic to use psychiatry as a way of discrediting people who speak the truth. The Russians did this to the writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who exposed the Gulags and the horrors of the Communist regime, labelling him as ‘schizophrenic’. However, it is a new thing for Catholic bishops to use psychiatric labelling to dismiss faithful Catholics who are only repeating what previous popes have said and done. Catholics who know that the devil is at work in secret societies throughout the world are considered paranoid, foolish, mad or dismissed as ‘conspiracy theorists’ by the world and their supposed shepherds. Now, some people end up in the snares of psychiatry because they genuinely have lost touch with reality. This is admitted and has been seen while working on psychiatric wards by the author.  However, it appears that it is the ones who are in charge of these wards who are likely to be the most insane. People, whether some or many, have been caught up in the snares of psychiatry because they have remained in touch with reality while psychiatry and psychiatrists have lost touch with it.  These people may get labelled with ‘schizophrenia’ thus discrediting anything they have to say in the eyes of the world.  Leo XIII, Pope St. Pius X, Fr Delaporte, Fr Vonier, Fr Meyer, and countless other Catholic popes, bishops, priests, theologians, and laymen, who shared their views would likely be seen as having, at least, some symptoms of ‘schizophrenia’ and ordered to a psychiatrist to have treatment for their ‘conspiratorial’ and ‘paranoid’ views.  Psychiatry holds the worldly power today and chooses who to deem mad and who to deem sane. It is dominated by atheists and other enemies of Christ who reject or do not know the Truth (1). The effects of the disordered society we currently live in will be felt more or less by us all, depending on the weight of the cross the good God wills to put on our shoulders. Disorder brings suffering but if this suffering is accepted with meekness and humility it can turn towards our sanctification.  The evil of psychiatry can be turned to the good of our souls.  So, if you find yourself or your family member in the hooks of psychiatry for simply being Catholic or adhering to the insights of the writers mentioned above, well, to paraphrase St. Francis de Sales, ‘Psychiatry holds us to be fools, let us hold it to be mad.’ 

God bless you in your efforts to live and speak the truth 

Footnotes:

(1) For psychology professors see: Gross, M. & Simmons, S. (2009) ‘The Religiosity of American College and University Professors’, Sociology of Religion, 70(2), pgs. 101-129.  Available at: https://academic.oup.com/socrel/article-abstract/70/2/101/1637811?redirectedFrom=fulltext

For psychiatrists, see:  Psychiatrists Are The Least Religious Of All Physicians — ScienceDaily

(2) This would be especially true if the person was experiencing common effects, such as facial tics, extreme physical restlessness and agitation, from the drugs that they were put on, and one was unable to articulate themselves clearly.  One ends up looking mad and what they are saying would sound mad to the vast majority of psychiatrists.

(3) A brief glance at the Summa Theologica on the remedies for sorrow (see here: Summa Theologiae FS Q[38] Of The Remedies Of Sorrow Or Pain (summa-theologiae.org)) where St Thomas shows the benefits of a pleasurable activity, crying, sympathy from friends, sleep and baths, highlights how Catholic teaching never ignored or neglected the influence the body had on the mind.  He certainly provides far better answers to the problem of interior sorrow than the quackery of psychiatry.

(4) If you happen to be going through a rough time, can’t articulate yourself well, and have taken some of the toxic drugs that they recommend, it is very likely that you will end up with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  If you don’t comply there is always the chance you will be put on a compulsory treatment order and perhaps given involuntary electroshock which was still common practice when I worked on a psychiatric ward in New Zealand in 2017.

(5) For just one example, see: Freemasonry and psychiatry in Poland – Tadeusz Nasierowski, Jonathan Britmann, 2012 (sagepub.com)

(6) See article on this website, ‘The Theory of Evolution and Mental Health’, for more on this

(7) See: Archbishop close to Pope suggests Archbishop Viganò suffers from a delusional mental illness | News | LifeSite (lifesitenews.com)                                         

(8) See: Pope Francis on the young who like Latin Mass: ‘Why so much rigidity?’ | News | Lifesitenews

(9) See other articles on this website, ‘False Shepherds’ and ‘The Nutters Running the Nuthouse’

Impostor Syndrome


‘Take away from my conscience the mask of vain, pitiful excuses which prevents me from seeing myself as You see me and know me, as I really am in Your eyes.’ – Fr Gabriel, ‘The Divine Intimacy’

There is a condition called ‘impostor syndrome’ which appears to be becoming more and more popular in the psychotherapeutic and psychological fields today. It appears in many of the most read and most popular online psychological and medical journals, e.g. Psychology Today, Medical News Today, while it also makes its appearance in popular newspapers and news magazines, such as The Independent and Time magazine.  There are twos video on YouTube on impostor syndrome which have attracted the attention of 2.4 million and 3 million people so far. There are also numerous people making their own videos on this condition. These articles and videos on impostor syndrome advocate for the reality of this condition and provide tips about what to do about it (1).  The following article will examine exactly what this ‘impostor syndrome’ is and what treatments are proposed to solve it. Then, having exposed the problems with these proposed treatments, which mainly promote ‘vain, pitiful excuses’, it will look at the real solution to these problems.

What Is Impostor Syndrome?

According to the research on these experiences, impostor syndrome is mainly characterised by doubting your own abilities, skills, and talents, and a persistent fear that you will be exposed as a ‘fraud’. This anxiety and fear was initially identified amongst ‘high-achieving’ women, i.e. women of above average intelligence that had worldly success in academia.  Subsequent studies suggested it was prevalent amongst ‘high-achieving’ men as well. The people that mainly experience impostor syndrome are those who are driven to be the best that they can be in whatever discipline they take on. They agree with such statements as ‘Oftentimes, I downplay my achievements because they are just very average’, ‘I tend to work hard towards one goal and, once I have reached it, I consider it normal and set a new goal for myself’, ‘Even if people praise me and my skills, I don’t think I am as competent or accomplished as they think I am’, ‘I believe that there’s always room for improvement and that stagnation equals decline’ and  ‘I think you should always prepare presentations/meetings thoroughly.’ (2) By this, one can see that they are driven to keep succeeding in whatever task or role they undertake.  Yet, when they have achieved what to the world looks like success, they very often remain unsatisfied with themselves and see themselves as frauds or impostors.  Modern psychology describes this as negative thinking and encourages the reframing of this critical thinking to more positive thoughts, such as ‘I know I can do this’, ‘learning to accept and believe compliments’ or ‘learning how to be your own person.’  Now, no doubt, there is some merit in this approach, especially for those who are naturally self-deprecating or those of a melancholic temperament. Encouragement is necessary for us at times. However, this approach only touches the surface and fails to address the underlying reasons for this sense of not being all that one can or should be or why this experience is so prevalent today. Modern sociological explanations for these thoughts and feelings often focus on ‘internalised sexism/misogyny/racism’.  These are put forward as the reasons why people do not feel good enough despite success in the world. However even with the huge growth of modern psychological treatments where positive thinking has been repeatedly emphasised over the last 40 years and the growth of all sorts of pride and liberation movements, these feelings and thoughts of being a fraud or an impostor appear to be only on the increase. So what is going on?

Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Now, there usually comes a time in a person’s life where they realise how futile and vain their efforts are and how even their achievements and the praise they receive for them do not give any lasting interior satisfaction. It comes with a sense of one’s insignificance. You can be told over and over again how good you are, how good your life is, and how brilliant your achievements are but yet not believe it. It is the lament of Solomon in chapter 2 of Ecclesiastes:  “I said in my heart: I will go, and abound with delights, and enjoy good things. And I saw that this also was vanity” and “And when I turned myself to all the works which my hands had wrought, and to the labours wherein I had laboured in vain, I saw in all things vanity, and vexation of mind, and that nothing was lasting under the sun.”  These experiences are most keenly felt in the experience of a mid-life crisis where even the best of one’s achievements appear vain, futile, and of no real value. This can sometimes send people into despair. More praise for external achievements is only seen as flattery and often leads to ‘vexation of mind’. During these periods there is a sense that there is something internal niggling at us that tells us we are not all that we should or can be. Modern psychology diagnoses this as ‘impostor syndrome’ and proposes the solutions. However, copious amounts of positive thinking and sociological explanations about ‘internalised inferiority’ have still not helped to alleviate this sense of being a fraud.  So, what are we missing?

Trying To Escape From That Which We Cannot:

Let us regard all ideas of what we ought to do simply as an interesting psychological survival: let us step right out of all that and start doing what we like. Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.’ – C.S. Lewis, ‘The Abolition of Man’, p. 32

The ultimate springs of human action are no longer, for them, something given. They have surrendered – like electricity: it is the function of the Conditioners to control, not to obey them. They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce. They themselves are outside, above…The final victory has been won. Human nature has been conquered.’ – C.S. Lewis, ‘The Abolition of Man’, p. 37

C.S. Lewis, over 75 years, gave an insight into the thoughts of those who sought to escape that which we cannot escape, i.e. reality.  Today, modern psychological and sociological theories, and practices deriving from these, are attempting to make man happy and to put him at peace, as they attempted in Lewis’ time. Yet, like those in Lewis’ era, in their attempts to do so, they have floated off away from reality. They are trying to build this happiness and peace on false foundations and escape from something which they cannot escape from, i.e. the natural law and conscience. Lewis, in the quote above, outlines how, during his lifetime, there were ongoing attempts by Conditioners, i.e. psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and those who saw themselves as ‘enlightened and progressive reformers’, to escape from the natural law and the pressure this put on our consciences.  These attempts have only been sped up by the ‘Conditioners’ in our times as modern psychological and sociological theories explain away or ‘produce’ conscience while they imagine themselves to have overcome this last hurdle of human nature. ‘Man is now free to be happy and at peace!’ they pronounce. Yet, misery, despair, and angst are only growing in our societies despite all their efforts. The beast of conscience has not succumbed to their desperate methods.  The laments of Solomon are heard across the world even amongst those who are deemed successful in the world’s eyes.  So, if modern psychological and sociological theories have failed to produce peace in men’s minds and hearts, if they have failed to shake off from many this feeling of being an impostor, where does the real solution lie? 

We do not want to be like the rest of men.  We spend our days in seeking distinction, for we will not admit that the commonplace is the gate of eternal happiness.  We go here and go there, we do this and do that, in order that we may talk about it, and be talked about… We live and hope and love as if there were no God, as if were alone, as if we had no hope save in what we achieve for ourselves… We are too busy arranging for our happiness to listen to Him, whereas He has already made all the arrangements necessary for our happiness.’ – Fr Eugene Boylan, ‘This Tremendous Lover’

Feelings of being a fraud or not being all that you should be are often our conscience speaking to us to let us know how miserable and wretched we really are.  One may have been given huge amounts of praise from the world, one may have gained numerous degrees and distinctions, and one may have impressed colleagues and friends with displays of one’s skills and abilities, (‘We go here and go there, we do this and do that, in order that we may talk about it, and be talked about’) but one still can feel empty or sense one’s life really is a failure or think that one is really a fraud.  How many people of worldly success, such as actors in Hollywood, have been hooked on drugs and died miserable deaths, despite what looked like lives of success to worldly eyes?  How many people are ‘too busy arranging for our happiness to listen to Him’? Modern psychology would not even ask this question. It would likely say that these poor high-achieving souls suffered from ‘impostor syndrome’. If it is a woman or a person of a racial minority that experiences this sense of being a fraud, then modern sociological theories put it down to ‘internalised sexism’ or ‘internalised racism’.  Modern psychology and sociology work hard at explaining away the pangs of conscience that sting us.  They refuse to acknowledge what man really is, i.e. a body and a soul, and as the Book of Proverbs says, ‘Where there is no knowledge of the soul, there is no good.’  What is most dangerous is that these modern theories suffocate and ridicule the true fix to these feelings of being an impostor, i.e. addressing what your conscience is indicating to you.  There are moments of grace in life where people who have achieved a lot of worldly success realise the futility and vanity of all that they have done.  These are moments of interior humiliation. There comes a realisation that our achievements are nothing in the grand scheme of things.  It can be a time to be humbled. It can be a time to really start examining what success in life really means or if we really are as good as the people around us tell us we are.  Instead of flattering ourselves or others flattering us the real solution lies in humbling ourselves to the dust and acknowledging that the worldly success we have had in life is often nothing but vanity and show.  There are moments when God breaks through despite our frantic search for distinction from the world and the busyness of our lives. These gentle moments of grace, if responded to with good will and a contrite and humble heart, can lead us toward peace of soul and they can help us to realise that ‘He has already made all the arrangements necessary for our happiness.’ 

‘Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48)

The reality of whether we are a success in this life can only be measured by how we measure up to the truth.  We all desire happiness. As St. Augustine says, ‘All men agree in desiring the last end, which is happiness’.  He defines happiness as ‘joy in truth’.  The more we come to know and love the truth, the more perfectly we follow the path of truth, the happier we are and will become.  Now, there are times in every man’s life where he has a strong indication that the road he is on is not the right one. These feelings become apparent for many despite the trappings of worldly praise and success. He begins to sense that he is far from the road that leads to perfection. The anxiety this causes in us is at the root of the worldwide and prevalent phenomenon of ‘impostor syndrome’.  However, it may not be considered a disease or a syndrome. It may be called a grace in many cases. It is blessing to begin to realise the futility and vanity of worldly success and praise.  These are the moments that we realise that we are not good enough and become aware of our own misery and nothingness.  We can choose either to be humbled by these experiences and really examine our lives in light of the truth or we can explain them away as ‘negative thinking’ or ‘internalised prejudice’.  We can reach for the nearest psychologists, therapists, or sociologists to placate our concerns and tell us we are ‘good enough’. Or, alternatively, we can listen to Truth Himself as He speaks to us in those moments of distress and near despair who reaffirms to us that we are unworthy, misery, nothingness (3), but Who then reminds us that through His infinite Love and our generous co-operation in returning this love He will make us all that we can and should be. 

Finding One’s True Self:

The world flatters us, the truth does not.  Truth tells us to be careful not to be deceived by flattery and those false prophets dressed in the clothing of sheep.  He tells us that we must be better than we currently are and that we need to curb our evil inclinations through discipline and vigilance. As Fr Edward Leen (‘Why the Cross?’) says, ‘The religion of Christ does impose restraints, but what it restrains is not human nature as such, but human nature that is tempted to be faithless to its true self.  It curbs only those instincts which menace ruin to human personality; as a consequence, it remains essentially a law not of self-repression, but of self-expression.’

With a bit of effort, we can then shake off any feelings of false shame and the notions of being a fraud or an impostor as we begin to live the life we were created to live, i.e. a life that is centred on knowing, loving, and honouring God.  We can then be and express our true selves. This is the ultimate solution to the problem of the impostor syndrome.

To put myself consciously in acquiescence and harmony with all that I apprehend as the good and the true, carries me (in that inner region of my being which is my true self) beyond the limitations of goodness and truth as I apprehend them conditioned by sense and by mind, to the very essence of God Himself in Whom all goodness under all its manifold aspects is one and absolute and infinite.’ – Fr R.H.J. Steuart, ‘World Intangible’

Dear reader, what has been written above is an attempt to guide you and others away from the false and dangerous snares that the world wishes to entangle people in when the inevitable interior difficulties we experience in life appear. This article gives an indication as to where the real solution to feelings or thoughts of being false to our true self lies.  It points towards Goodness, Mercy, and Love Himself. Now, the devout Catholic life is the way to this true life (4). It is the way of harmonising ourselves with all that is good and true. It is where your true self is to be found. This is the way that leads to peace and happiness. This is the message that this article, wishes to impart. Perhaps, this will then incite you to explore further articles on this website which hope to encourage you on this path.  At least, it is hoped that the blogs written here in 2020 will spur you on to investigate the claims of the Catholic Faith further. 

Ultimately, faith is a gift from God so, as this is my last article of 2020, I hope and pray that you will be blessed with this gift and that you will enjoy a truly happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.  

God bless

Footnotes:

  1. There are doubts over whether this condition meets objective criteria to truly classify it as a psychological condition, with it even failing to make the list of the Diagnostic Statistic Manual, which has at least over 200 various diagnoses and includes such questionable disorders as ‘binge eating disorder’, i.e. gluttony, and ‘disruptive mood dysregulation disorder’, i.e. throwing temper tantrums. However, it is definitely true that people are experiencing anxiety about being seen as a fraud and impostor and this is why it is worth investigating.  
  2. Taken from: http://impostorsyndrometest.com. Note: the thoughts and attitudes towards oneself displayed as symptomatic of impostor syndrome cross over with many of the traits of conscientious people, i.e. those who are sensitive to the dictates of their conscience. This gives more evidence to the points made in this article that this ‘impostor syndrome’ is used as a way of explaining away the niggling of one’s conscience.
  3. The following are some of the words Our Lord uses towards Sister Josefa Mendenez in the private revelations she experienced, as outlined in the book, ‘The Way of Divine Love’. They are written here to give an understanding of how Our Lord speaks to those He loves: My one desire is to reveal to souls the love, the mercy and the pardon of My Heart, and I have chosen you to do it for Me, wretched as you undoubtedly are. But do not be anxious, I love you, and your misery is the very reason of My love. I want you for Myself, and because you are so miserable I have worked miracles to guard you carefully…Yes, I love all souls, but with very special affection those who are the most weak and little.’ – p. 424. ‘Gaze well and long on this Heart. It is the Sanctuary of the miserable, hence yours, for who is more miserable than you? Look deep down into My Heart. It is the Crucible in which the most defiled are purified, and afterwards inflamed with love. Come, draw near this Furnace, cast your miseries and sins into it; have confidence and believe in Me who am your Saviour.  Once more fix your eyes attentively on My Heart. It is a Fountain of Living Water. Throw yourself into its depths and appease your thirst.’ – p. 432. It is the love of God and us returning this love with our whole being that will make us our true selves, i.e. the saints God wills us to be.
  4. Note: this is not the false expression of the Catholic Faith offered by the Novus Ordo and its adherent today but rather the Faith expressed so supremely by the Traditional Latin Mass/the true Mass (see: Getting Closer to the Truth – Protestant Services or the Novus Ordo? – Truth and Freedom Therapy (TFT)) and lived by countless canonised saints previous to the Vatican II revolution in the Church (see: Sanctity & Sanity (1/2) – Truth and Freedom Therapy (TFT))

The Ignorant 19th Century Priest and The Enlightened 21st Century Editor


Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, not in theoretical or practical indifferent towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged, but in zeal for their intellectual and moral improvement as well as for their material well-being.‘ – Pope St. Pius X, ‘Letter of Pope St. Pius X to the French Bishops on the Sillon’

When it comes to psychological or emotional issues, such as depression, the world today likes to pretend it is more knowledgeable, enlightened and cultured than the ignorant fools of yesteryear. It forgets or rejects Catholic doctrine and guidance which provides answers to the perplexing and sorrowful difficulties people experience in this life. For this blog I have decided to imagine how a modern editor of a imaginary popular psychological magazine which offers ‘self-help’ tips might respond to an article on psychological advice offered for publication by a 19th century priest.  Let us imagine that he has just received the following article called ‘Means Against Sadness’, from ‘The Way of Interior Piece’, written by Fr De Lehen and published in English in 1888 (see endnote).  It has been submitted for publication in 2020. Here are the edits and comments I reasonably suspect this editor would make:  

Dear Fr De Lehen,

I appreciate the submission of your article, ‘Means Against Sadness’ to our magazine. You make some very reasonable and helpful points. However, I can not proceed with the publication of this article as it currently stands. It will require quite a substantial amount of editing before it is fit for publication in our magazine.   I have crossed out the words that really will not appeal to our modern readership and replaced them with more appropriate words. Please find these edits below:

Means Against Sadness:

‘Here are two rules[MM1]  suggestions that seem to be of the utmost importance here.  The first is that you make use of the natural means offered you by Providence[MM2]  your life circumstances, in order to shake off sadness. Do not overburden yourself with laborious occupation, spare your corporal[MM3]  physical and spiritual[MM4]  psychological strength; reserve for yourself some leisure hours in which to pray[MM5]  meditate, to read, and to enjoy good conversation. Cheer your soul[MM6]  mind with thoughts of eternal[MM7]  happiness, and shake off depression by spiritual and physical diversion taken in the Lord[MM8] .

Comments: [MM1]‘Rules’ is too strong a word; [MM2]Too many religious connotations; [MM3]People don’t use this language anymore;  [MM4]Too religious in its connotations, ‘psychological’ is better;  [MM5]Meditation is popular today, prayer not so much;  [MM6]Too religious; [MM7]Many of our readers don’t believe in life after death so this would put them off;  [MM8]Too religious

           Seek also a discreet and trusty friend[MM9]  counsellor to whom you can pour out your heart. To such a one disclose everything that is not the secret of another[MM10] . Perfect confidence enlarges and enlightens the mind. A sorrow long concealed oppresses the heart. Speak out, and you will discover that you have made the matter over which you are grieving much more serious than it really is. Nothing so quickly dispels gloom as the simplicity and humility with which, at the sacrifice of self-esteem[MM11]  you reveal discouragement and dejection, and seek light and consolation in the holy[MM12]  healthy communication that ought to exist between the children of God you and your counsellor. Confine yourself to those of your acquaintances whose conversation is cheerful and recreative. It is not necessary that your circle should be large, nor must you be too fastidious[MM13] fussy. Be ready to converse with all peaceable and reasonable people. Again, whenever you feel sadness creeping over you, read, work, or take a walk. Change occupation, that weariness may not attack you. In short, do whatever your frame of mind may suggest provided there is nothing sinful in it [MM14] it works

Comments: [MM9]There are lots of great professionals out there today and friends are not trained to manage psychological difficulties; [MM10]Detraction is not really a big deal anymore; [MM11] This does not make sense. Pride in oneself is a good thing!; [MM12]Again, too religious!; [MM13]Might be a bit too complex a term for our readers; [MM14]Let’s avoid this type of moralising!

If you feel that, in spite of these helps and rules suggestions, sadness asserts its reign, then follow the second rule suggestion: Endure patiently. Interior desolation carries the soul more speedily forward on the way of pure faith than all exterior exercises could do. [MM15] Challenges in life can help to make our minds stronger in the end. But do not let yourself be held back by it them. Do not indulge in relaxation which will aim at usurping possession of your interior[MM16] . Keep battling and stay focused. One step when in this state is always a giant stride, and is of more value than thousands when the soul is in consolation the mind is more peaceful. Despise your dejection and go on quietly, for this state of soul is more useful, more meritorious to you than gigantic, heroic strength and courage[MM17] , for ‘life isn’t waiting for the storm to pass…it’s learning to dance in the rain.’

Comments: [MM15]Too negative and too many religious connotations – soul and faith are both mentioned;  [MM16]What’s wrong with indulging in relaxation?;  [MM17]Soul mentioned again!

                   O how deceitful is that sensible courage that finds everything easy, undertakes all, suffers everything, and unhesitatingly attributes all to self! Ah, it nourishes self-esteem and confidence! It pleases the world; but to the soul it is a refined person[MM18] . Challenges and trials give us a sense of our weakness and our dependence on each other.  Society is delighted if we are productive, robotic-like workers or joyous consumers. It does not value the interior trials that we go through as only we or those closest to us have a sense of the battles we have to face.

Comments: [MM18]Too negative in the language used and too much focus on the soul. It is better to talk about societal problems and interior struggles as, while we avoid mentioning the soul, this still appeals to our readership. 

                   A soul that, like Christ in the Garden of Olives, is sorrowful unto death, and with her crucified Lord, cries out: ‘My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34) is much more purified, much better fortified in humility than the valiant one who rejoices in peace over the fruits of her virtues.’[MM19]  Let us look to heroes from the past, such as Nelson Mandela who faced many battles but courageously overcame any fears to become the great leader that he was. Keep battling and as Mandela said, ‘The greatest glory in living is not in falling, but in rising every time we fall.’

Comments: [MM19]Christ is too divisive a figure.  Mandela appeals to a bigger audience and he is less divisive. (This is fine just as long as we don’t mention him being the leader of the terrorist Communist group, UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK) that killed innocent women and children).

So, Fr De Lehen, if you can just change the article to reflect the edits suggested then your article would very likely be suitable for publication.  You will have noted my explanation for the edits above but my overall reason is that many people do not want to know about religion and Christ is an especially divisive figure today. However, they still need advice on how to deal with sadness. Now, no doubt, you have some good common-sense advice to offer, but psychological services have moved on from direct talk about the soul or religion. In these more enlightened times, we understand more about psychological problems than in the 19th century. Whilst admittedly your times did not have near as many suicides or the levels of addiction to prescription and illegal drugs compared to our times I am sure if you were able to see the progress we have made in our knowledge in the 21st century and the amount of psychological services we now have for all age categories and conditions then you would understand why I cannot accept the article as it is.  If you can polish it up as I have shown above then it would appeal to our readership which is far more educated, cultured, and enlightened than the credulous and ignorant audience you were writing to.  May the advice I share also help you to see things more clearly as well. 

Sincerely,

Editor of ‘Psychology Matters 2020’ (PhD)

Endnote:

Fr De Lehen’s excellent advice from ‘The Way of Interior Peace’, published in 1888 by Benzinger Brothers (without the ‘progressive’ edits):

Means Against Sadness:

‘Here are two rules that seem to be of the utmost importance here.  The first is that you make use of the natural means offered you by Providence, in order to shake off sadness. Do not overburden yourself with laborious occupation, spare your corporal and spiritual strength; reserve for yourself some leisure hours in which to pray, to read, and to enjoy good conversation. Cheer your soul with thoughts of eternal happiness, and shake off depression by spiritual and physical diversion taken in the Lord.

           Seek also a discreet and trusty friend to whom you can pour out your heart. To such a one disclose everything that is not the secret of another. Perfect confidence enlarges and enlightens the mind. A sorrow long concealed oppresses the heart. Speak out, and you will discover that you have made the matter over which you are grieving much more serious than it really is. Nothing so quickly dispels gloom as the simplicity and humility with which, at the sacrifice of self-esteem you reveal discouragement and dejection, and seek light and consolation in the holy communication that ought to exist between the children of God. Confine yourself to those of your acquaintances whose conversation is cheerful and recreative. It is not necessary that your circle should be large, nor must you be too fastidious. Be ready to converse with all peaceable and reasonable people. Again, whenever you feel sadness creeping over you, read, work, or take a walk. Change occupation, that weariness may not attack you. In short, do whatever your frame of mind may suggest provided there is nothing sinful in it.  If you feel that, in spite of these helps and rules, sadness asserts its reign, then follow the second rule: Endure patiently. Interior desolation carries the soul more speedily forward on the way of pure faith than all exterior exercises could do. But do not let yourself be held back by it. Do not indulge in relaxation which will aim at usurping possession of your interior. One step when in this state is always a giant stride, and is of more value than thousands when the soul is in consolation. Despise your dejection and go on quietly, for this state of soul is more useful, more meritorious to you than gigantic, heroic strength and courage.

                   O how deceitful is that sensible courage that finds everything easy, undertakes all, suffers everything, and unhesitatingly attributes all to self! Ah, it nourishes self-esteem and confidence! It pleases the world; but to the soul it is a refined person.

                  A soul that, like Christ in the Garden of Olives, is sorrowful unto death, and with her crucified Lord, cries out: ‘My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34) is much more purified, much better fortified in humility than the valiant one who rejoices in peace over the fruits of her virtues.’ – p. 250-1

The Best Way to Help Our Loved Ones


Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee’ (Ps 54:23)                            

                                     When we see our loved ones struggling or living lives of disorder, it can break our hearts.  Having counselled many family members over the last number of years I have seen the anguish that family members experience when they see a loved one going astray. They are desperate to find help for them. Oftentimes, this help will be offered in the form of modern psychological and psychiatric services, who promise to take ‘good care’ of their family member for them.  Having been behind closed doors and heard how many of these services speak about family members and how disconnected from reality these services and professionals are, I would be very reluctant to advise family members to encourage their loved ones to comply with these services and their interventions. More often than not, these services cause the loved one more psychological and physiological problems through the imparting of toxic falsehoods and corruptive ideologies. Alternatively, they force the family member to be docile and compliant by giving them toxic drugs or more ‘intensive treatments’ are given, such as electroshock. (This certainly makes the family member very docile and ‘compliant’!). Some family members are conned into believing the falsehoods of psychiatry and modern psychology. Other family members see through these lies and fight for their family members while these barbaric and destructive treatments are forced on them (These family members are the ones that are usually ridiculed by psychiatrists as ignorant of the progressive ‘science’ that is psychiatry or modern psychology).  Some family members are happy to see that their family members are less of a nuisance and more docile than they were before and they are glad to follow the psychiatric authorities, rather than help their family member get to the root of their troubles. All in all, modern services can be a minefield for family members looking for help for their loved ones.

                                   The suffering of those we love is a cross we all have to bear at some stage in our lives. There are lots of promises of care, help and support from various services and professionals today. At times, we can feel overburdened by the demands that caring for a family member places on us. We can see this in the various calls for more public services as parents and carers feel under more and more pressure and strain. However, due to the attempts to remove God from these services and the move away from Catholic services to the ‘progressive’, ‘inclusive’ and ‘enlightened’ services outlined above, true charity also gets kicked out of the window. Health care becomes professionalised and coldly clinical rather than a vocation while services develop better marketing campaigns to cover up the cracks. As public workers are not drinking from the replenishing well that is the Heart of Jesus they burn out and/or begin to care less about the people they are meant to serve. ‘Because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.’ (Matthew 24:12). If calls for more public services involved asking services to be truly Catholic once again, then this would give evidence that people have realised that services cannot be effective unless they are built on truth and charity, i.e. the love of God and one’s neighbour. Sadly, this is not happening, and things will only continue to get worse as charity grows colder.

                                    Now, people sometimes contact my service asking me if I could help a family member that is struggling with psychological issues. Sometimes I cannot meet the family member they are concerned about, but the family member is often eager for at least some advice or guidance. The answer I give to family members, which I know can only do good if followed, remains the same answer that I give to the people I counsel directly – sanctify yourself.  There is nothing extraordinary about this advice. It has been the advice given to many for thousands of years.  This advice is based on abundant evidence, which shows that living the Catholic Faith is the best means for increasing one’s happiness and peace of soul in this life and the only means of attaining eternal happiness in the next. 

‘The multiple relations which bind a man to his family, to his city, to his country and to his God, make incessant calls on his activities.  He must endeavour to respond to all in a spirit of fortitude, kindness, forbearance, devotedness, prudence and justice.  He must in all things strive to be ‘good’. But he must aim at this goodness not for the sake of being good but because God would have him so.’ (Fr Edward Leen, ‘In the Likeness of Christ’)

                                     When I cannot work directly with a family member, the approach I take is to encourage other family members to do the most charitable thing they can do for their family member, i.e. live a life of virtue.  In this busy world where we are eager to fix those around us, many of us forget that the first responsibility we have is the sanctification of our own soul. If we want to help those around us, we must help ourselves first.  Charity does truly start at home. We must develop a spirit of fortitude, kindness, devotedness, etc. We must fill our own hearts with faith, hope and charity and then allow this to overflow into the lives of those around us. As St Gregory the Great says, “To offer sacrifice spiritually to God is to offer Him something that gives Him glory. Now of all goods, the most pleasing that man can offer to God is, undeniably, the salvation of a soul. But every one must first offer his own soul, according to what is said in Scripture: ‘If you wish to please God, have pity on your own soul.’” Dom Chautard explains this quote: ‘When this first sacrifice [of one’s soul] has been consummated, then will it be permitted us to procure the same joy for others.’ (‘The Soul of the Apostolate’) (See footnote)

                                      So, given the state of public services today, particularly those offering psychological help, what can we do for our loved one when we see them descend into madness or disorder? Well, the same thing that we should be doing anyway – sanctifying ourselves and trying to know, honour and love God more each day.  Follow the example of St Monica who trusted in God’s mercy and never gave up on her son, St. Augustine. Her saintly life helped her son mend his ways. We can offer up our tears, sacrifices and prayers for our family members. If we love our family members, i.e. if we will them good, and we want our sons/daughters, wives/husbands, brothers/sisters, mothers/fathers, etc., to have peace of soul and be truly happy, then we can do no better thing to show this love for them than by being a shining example of true charity. And how do we do this? Through hard work, personal effort and discipline.  Through finding a prudent, wise and charitable priest as a spiritual director who will guide us in the ways of perfection; through good spiritual reading that will enlighten our minds; through sacrifices and penance that will discipline our unruly bodies; through mental prayer that will ground us in the present while reminding us of the link between the present and eternity; through mortification of our pride that will help us in the ways of humility.  Ultimately, through making ourselves pleasing to God and responding to the grace He bestows on us. We are all called to be saints, but we must focus efforts towards sanctity on ourselves first. If we do not conquer ourselves then we have no hope of helping others with their demons. As Fr Eugene Boylan points out in his excellent book, ‘This Tremendous Lover’, ‘The greatest service we can render our neighbour is to sanctify ourselves.’

So, whether it is a family member or a friend you are concerned about, may Our Lady guide you in the ways of sanctity so you can then truly help them,

God bless

Footnote: The book, ‘The Soul of the Apostolate’ is an excellent book for anyone trying to help and guide others. A free copy of it is available here: http://www.cmri.org/0-olmc-mission/catholic-books/soul_of_the_apostolate.pdf or for purchase here: https://www.tanbooks.com/soul-of-the-apostolate-3562.html

Healing The Scars That Evil Leaves


Nearly all avoidance of evil and all practice of virtue must begin in our thoughts. If we deliberately allow ourselves to think evil, we shall soon find ourselves speaking evil and doing evil.’ – Fr Eugene Boylan, ‘This Tremendous Lover’

The idea that we should avoid evil is firmly rooted in our soul. We have an innate sense that evil we expose ourselves to or evil we are exposed to can have a detrimental effect on our minds. Exposure to particularly traumatic or evil happenings can leave its scars. This innate sense that evil can really damage us is backed up by empirical evidence. In recent times, research in psychology has highlighted how early childhood trauma impacts on our mental health.  Research into psychiatric disorders is also highlighting how early childhood trauma, e.g. sexual abuse, has a strong relationship with hearing voices and seeing visions. With this research becoming more evident there has been a shift away from medical models that overemphasised the biological roots for psychological issues to one that recognises that the type of environment we grow up in and the evil that we are exposed to often leaves its scars.  This has resulted in more talk of ‘trauma informed care’, which is better than the dominant ‘diagnose and drug ‘em’ models. Yet, with credit given where credit is due, there really is nothing extraordinary in this shift of emphasis. A brief reflection on one’s own experiences and a short consideration of the lives of others will help us to see that traumatic experiences do often leave their scars in various ways. This understanding that exposure to evil has detrimental effects on one’s minds is also nothing new. It has been written about and more clearly explained long before psychiatry and psychology became professional disciplines. Let us look at some of this wisdom from the past.

It is better for us not to know low and vile things, because by them we are impeded in our knowledge of what is better and higher; for we cannot understand many things simultaneously; because the thought of evil sometimes perverts the will towards evil.St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, First Part, Treatise on the One God, Q. 22 (The Providence of God), Article 3, h (Reply to Objection 3)

Our minds tend to be corrupted by evil.  St Thomas, the Angelic Doctor of the Catholic Church, clearly understood this.  Rather than focusing on ‘better and higher’ things which purify and lift our minds, our minds can be poisoned when we focus on or know ‘low and vile things’. St. Thomas wrote in a time (the 13th century) where evil and immoral practices, e.g. homosexuality, murder, were far less prevalent and where most minds were kept free from knowledge of this vileness.  The time in which St. Thomas wrote is often referred to by modern secular historians as ‘The Dark Ages’ yet this period, especially the 13th century, was one of the most truly progressive and enlightening periods of history.  Minds were kept safe from the dark knowledge of low and vile things so they would not be impeded in knowledge of what is better and higher. These ‘dark ages’ helped minds such as those of St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure rise to higher levels of sanctity and philosophical insights than men have reached since. Our modern pagan times (or our ‘enlightened times’ as many believe) make it harder for one to keep focused on what is better and higher. This is because sin is so prevalent and is seen as ‘progressive’ by many, e.g. abortion as ‘health care’, LGBT ‘pride’. As we are often swamped in the filth of ‘low and vile things’, the mind struggles to reach to better and higher things.  Yet, if we want to maintain good mental health and, more importantly, avoid our will being perverted towards evil we must take St. Thomas’ advice and try not to know, or, at the very least, not focus on ‘low and vile things’. We must do what we can to keep our minds pure and our wills incorrupt in our current times and avoid exposing ourselves deliberately to evil. Focused efforts on purity and sanctity will only help in establishing one’s sanity while ‘holiness consists in hating and waging war against all that is evil and cleaving to that which is good.’ (Fr Auguste Saudreau, ‘The Ideal of the Fervent Soul’) This is what we must do for the health of our mind and soul.  What we expose ourselves to will have an impact on our thoughts and actions.  As St. Francis de Sales says, ‘let us have good thoughts: then we shall never have evil movements. Let us shun immodest company: then we shall not be provoked to lust.  To cure ourselves of our vices, it may be well to mortify the flesh, but above all we must purify our heart.’ (‘The Devout Life’)

But what happens when we are exposed to evil or have evil inflicted on us without our consent? Sometimes due to these experiences, e.g. sexual abuse as a child, people will find that they are more inclined towards evil and immoral practices, e.g. homosexuality, and will sadly give themselves over to it, doing so often with the encouragement of psychological professionals. Others will resist some evil inclinations but find themselves distracting themselves from the reality of their trauma in other ways, e.g. alcohol, drugs, gambling, binge eating, etc.  Others will find themselves able, by the grace of God, to face reality, understand themselves and their behaviour and find peace of soul amidst the crosses they have been given.  Still, others will find themselves in psychiatric services, diagnosed with a psychiatric condition such as personality disorder or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, drugged up, and told that they have a biological condition which will be needed to be treated with psychiatric drugs for life. (This is a common experience for people and I have seen this for myself while working in psychiatric services where many people’s traumatic stories were missed due to an overfocus on supposed chemical imbalances).  There are many different paths people take when they are exposed to evil at a young and innocent age. Some decide to indulge more in the evil they have encountered while others try to understand and combat their perverse inclinations towards evil.  Many struggle to make sense of the hatred they have for the evil inflicted on them along with the hatred or guilt they feel towards themselves. All seek answers to help them to understand the disorder, angst and restlessness they identify in themselves. As our society becomes more and more disconnected from the truth and more and more people are exposed to evil, this sense of disorder is only increasing. So what is the solution? 

Far from seeking out that which is evil, Love dreads meeting with it’ – St Francis de Sales (‘The Devout Life’)

The first step is to identify what is evil and to avoid meeting it.  There is a terrible amount of confusion about evil in our world today. This confusion is not helped by leaders, e.g. the hierarchy in the Church, who have responsibility for helping souls to avoid evil, but who in some, if not many, cases, have helped to corrupt souls by exposing them to evil or confusing them about what constitutes evil. Due to how evil can be cloaked in the guise of virtue, we must be ‘wise as serpents’ in our endeavours to avoid meeting evil.  If we want to have peace of soul and liberty of spirit, we must focus on what is better and higher, not what is low and vile. We must love with is good and pure and dread meeting evil. This website and service endeavours to point out some of the most obvious examples of low and vile things, e.g. abortion, fornication, homosexuality.  It tries to point people towards better and higher things, e.g. the teachings and true representation of the Catholic Faith, virtue, sanctity.  While countless modern psychological theories compete for people’s attention and money, the fundamental principle for finding peace of soul, no matter how traumatic your life has been, remains the same, ‘Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it.’ (Psalm 33:15). We have a responsibility to figure out what exactly this means and what it entails (1).

Ultimately, the best approach for identifying and avoiding evil is a life of prayer. So, to end, let me share this prayer of Fr Martin Von Cochem, written in his classic book, ‘The Four Last Things’ that may give help to you in your endeavours:

‘O my God, grant me grace that on earth I may love the light and eschew the works of darkness, in order that I may attain to the contemplation of the eternal and perpetual light!

God bless

Footnote:

(1) If you want a more detailed philosophical outline of what evil fundamentally is you can check out St Thomas treatise on the distinction between good and evil here.

The Desire for Perfection


There is nothing so sad as the sight of those who once pressed forward to the goal of perfection frittering away the days and the hours in silly preoccupation about things that are futile, transient and unsubstantial.’  – Fr Edward Leen, ‘In the Likeness of Christ’

There is a distinct, though often faint, voice within us that tells us we could be so much more than we currently are.  It provokes an inner restlessness that is not easy to shake off.  There are moments in our lives where this voice seems to overwhelm us. We are flattened by the disappointment we feel when we look at who we are and what we have done with our lives.  There springs into our consciousness the thought that our lives are not all that they could or should have been.

These moments can be short-lived. Most of us do not pay too much attention to them. We return to the daily grind and distractions where we forget our own mediocrity. Some people around us might notice that we have lost some of our youthful vitality that once drove us forward, now seeing us ‘frittering away the days and the hours in silly preoccupation about things that are futile, transient and unsubstantial’. Sometimes they may let us know what they see but most of the time nothing is said, and we feel relieved by friends and family members that tell us, ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself’. Yet, for some, that lingering sense that we are not all that we should be does not dissipate and it is not easily blocked out. Fr Martin D’Arcy, former Master of Campion Hall, Oxford University, captures this angst: ‘We are haunted by perfection, and we all long to for some golden occasion when we can exhibit our strength, write down for all time what we are and could be and so wipe out the long array of petty deeds which go under our name.’ (‘Mirage and Truth’). This sense of being ‘haunted’ leads to some seeking answers for this desire for perfection from various mental health professionals who claim to be experts or, at least, to be knowledgeable about the solutions to this angst. But what do these ‘experts’ tell us about this desire for perfection? (Footnote 1)

A Rejection of Perfection:

At one of the most popular psychological websites, Psychology Today, one of these ‘experts’, Mel Schwartz, will tell us that ‘[The construct of perfection] remains rooted in an outmoded worldview and constrains our happiness. Shifting our beliefs about perfection can permit the burden that it imposes to lift.’  And he will also tell us that ‘If someone ever could achieve this impossible state of perfection, it’s likely that very few people would tolerate him or her. For the perfect individual would be a constant reminder to all others of their shortcomings. Not to mention that they probably wouldn’t be much fun to be with. Who would really tolerate, let alone enjoy being with, someone who was perfect?’  Mel here is telling the person who desires perfection that perfection is an ‘outmoded worldview’ or outdated concept, that we should really not tolerate anyone who is perfect, and that the concept of perfection needs to be got rid of so we can be truly happy.  The pharisees would be proud!

‘There Is No Finish Line’:

Another modern ‘life and relationship expert’, Anne Cohen, tells us that ‘It’s important to love and embrace your life and enjoy the moment as you strive towards your goals, and not just patiently or impatiently long for the end result, and assume that you’ll feel happy at that point. You won’t be. The truth is, there is no end result or finish line in life. The only finish line in life is when we’re dead. It’s important to enjoy our journey, and not to be so hard on ourselves.’ Basically, it is ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die’ which St. Paul (Corinthians, chapter 15) responds to by saying ‘Be not seduced: Evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake, ye just, and sin not.’ The argument of Anne Cohen was already refuted by ancient Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, before Christ, and it was torn apart by the historical reality of the Resurrection and the preaching of the Apostles.  Yet, almost 2’000 years later these arguments that try to do away with perfection or twist it into one’s own formula persist.    

These are just two examples of the senseless nonsense that it is to be found from modern gurus who claim to lead people to happiness. Elsewhere I have outlined how professional psychologists give the completely wrong answers to those who are ‘haunted by perfection’.  So, if modern psychology cannot provide the answers, where is one to find the answer to this desire for perfection?

‘Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48)

These are the ground shattering words that rock the foundations of those who have settled in the comfortable home of mediocrity. For those who do not know the heavenly Father or who already think they are perfect these words will be ridiculed and scorned. For those who have come up with elaborate, sophisticated, and proud ways of justifying their imperfections they will mean little. This is how the pharisees and scribes responded and is exemplified today in the writings of Mel Schwarz above. For those who would rather enjoy the hedonistic pleasures of this life than aim at the higher path, Our Lord’s words fall on deaf ears. 

But for those who do have some idea of the heavenly Father’s power, beauty and goodness and know something of their own inadequacy and mediocrity these words are like a thunderbolt.  For these humble, generous souls who realise that they are sinners like the publican, these words send shockwaves through them. They may respond with some skepticism: ‘Me, how can I be ‘perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect?’ ‘This saying is hard, and who can hear it?’ (John 6: 61). These challenging words can rock us as much today as they did then. Like Mel Schwartz, we can reject this Man who claims to be perfect and tells us all to aspire to perfection – this Man who is a ‘constant reminder to all others of their shortcomings’.  Or we can take Him and His words seriously despite how overwhelmed we may feel when hearing them. It may initially appear to us to be incredibly difficult to follow this path of perfection when we look at the example set before us. And to top it all, we now know, unlike those listening to the sermon on the mount almost two thousand years ago, that the Speaker’s life was one of suffering and hardship, resulting ultimately in His crucifixion. And he tells us to follow in His example!  This is not the road to happiness that Mel Schwartz, Anne Cohen, psychologists, therapists, counsellors, psychiatrists, and countless others posing as enlightened guides advise! Yet we know that there is something within our soul that tells us that this is the route we must take:

It is dimly felt that though the cross came to Christ only because He permitted it, the cross must come to the Christian of a necessity and the Christian is not free to evade it if his life is to reflect, in some degree, the perfection of the life of the Son of God on earth.  Christ had perfection of soul without the cross: there is a secret instinct which tells the Christian that he cannot have perfection of soul without the crossIt is this obscure but intimate realisation that the Passion is not a mere historical contingent fact, affecting one man, but a theory of life applicable to all men, that stirs uneasiness and a species of discomfort in the heart of the thoughtful and honest Christian in face of the Passion and death of Christ.’ (Fr Edward Leen, ‘In the Likeness of Christ’, my emphasis)

‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me’ (Luke 9:23)

The Catholic Faith teaches us that there is no way to perfection except through the picking up of our cross daily.  There is no getting away from it. No matter how many elaborate psychological theories and professional associations try to twist this message the cross still remains there to be picked up. To reach perfection this is the offer that is put before us. It is not for the fainthearted and great saints do not sugar-coat the hard work and effort that we must put in on this path.  For example, St Bernard speaks to his wayward nephew, Robert, ‘Arouse yourself, gird your loins, put aside idleness, grasp the nettle, and do some hard work.’ (‘St Bernard of Clairvaux – As Seen Through His Selected Letters’) St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, is even more direct while writing to a nun who aspired after perfection, says: ‘The spouse of Christ who longs to become perfect must begin with her own self.  She must put aside, forget everything else, and enter into the secrecy of her own heart.  When she has done this, let her sift narrowly all her weaknesses, habits, affections, actions and sins.  She must weigh everything carefully, and make a thorough examination of past and present.  Should she discover even the least imperfection, let her weep in the bitterness of her heart.’ (‘Holiness of Life’) And St Therese of Lisieux, who is often depicted in modern times as nothing but sweetness and roses, says that when we commit a fault, ‘we must not attribute it to a physical cause, such as illness or the weather, but we must attribute it our own lack of perfection…Occasions do not make man weak, but they do show him what he is.’ (‘Counsels and Souvenirs’) (See footnote 2).

The saints know man. They know our distance from God and the effort that needs to be made to try to shorten this distance. If we are to set out on the road to perfection, we must humble ourselves and acknowledge how far from perfection we really are. Yet, this is nothing more than acknowledging reality. It is establishing our starting point upon the map before we set out for our destination. Once the destination is determined, we can set out. On this journey, there will be slips, mishaps, falls, and, perhaps, moments of despair as we begin to truly understand ourselves and our distance from God. But we must be determined to keep on this path as St Teresa of Avila tells us, ‘Everything depends on people having a great and a most resolute determination never to halt until they reach their journey’s end, happen what may, whatever the consequences are, cost what it will, let who will blame them, whether they reach the goal or die on the road, or lose heart to bear the trials they encounter, or the earth falls to pieces beneath their feet.’ (‘The Way of Perfection’). This path towards perfection is the only path to take as the alternative route only leads to misery both in this life and the next. It is the reality that a true understanding of the one true Faith holds out to us.

But what about the objections that claim that it is too hard or unrealistic or unpractical and idealistic to speak in this way about perfection? Well, the Faith has the answers to these complaints through the example and words of Our Lord, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light’ and through the example of all the saints who followed in His footsteps whose spirits were more free and lives happier than the world will ever know (see here and here for two blogs on this).

It is a great thing to realise that each one of us is meant for sanctity and that God will not allow us to lead a mediocre life. Christ takes us seriously and when we have the hardihood to put ourselves in His path and show ourselves ready to obey Him, He expects us to rise to the ideal He has traced for us, every one according to her own form. That is a dread thought. But He is prepared to give us the means of achieving what He asks of us…We cannot fall back. We have to face reality.’ – Fr Edward Leen, ‘My Last Retreat’ (See footnote 3)

Let us not languish in the errors and fables about perfection offered by modern psychology and its various proud and foolish gurus. ‘Christ takes us seriously’. Let us take Him seriously and ‘face reality’. Perfection is possible and the path He has led out before us is the only path that will bring this about.  We know that to reach our destination serious effort must be put in. However, lest we despair with the thoughts of what is laid before us, ‘fall back’, and start considering whether modern psychological answers may be right after all, let us finish with a quote from Fr Eugene Boylan describing the spiritual teachings of St Therese of Lisieux:

The perfect picture that St. Teresa of Lisieux has drawn of the spiritual life will help to give us courage.  She sees it as a stairway to be climbed, at the top of which God is waiting, looking down in Fatherly love at His child’s efforts to surmount the first step.  The child, who represents ourselves, fails to manage to climb even the first step; it can only keep on lifting up its tiny little foot. Sooner or later God takes pity on it, and comes down and sweeps the child right up to the top in His arms; but – and St. Teresa insists on this as much as she insists on God’s loving kindness – we must keep on lifting up our foot.  The soul must never be discouraged by the fruitlessness of its repeated efforts. It seems to be a law of the spiritual life that, since all progress ultimately depends on God, He lets us first learn our complete helplessness by long and weary efforts that come to naught.  But we have His word: ‘I Myself will come and save you!’ (‘Difficulties in Mental Prayer’)

So, keep making efforts towards perfection and may Our Lady guide you and God bless you in your endeavours

Footnote 1:

These two articles are the first and fourth results after a duckduckgo.com search with the terms ‘desire for perfection’.  They are a general representation of the dangerous nonsense written about psychological matters that is to be found in our world.

Footnote 2:

Lest the wrong impression is given that the saints were all harshness and extremely demanding towards one’s neighbour we must keep in mind that these were saints who imitated Christ in their words and behaviour. This is how Fr Edward Leen describes Our Lord: ‘He is very tender towards the imperfect, but relentless towards imperfection.’ (‘Why the Cross?’).  The above quotes show the relentless of St Bernard, St Bonaventure, St Therese of Lisieux and St Teresa of Avila towards imperfection while the following quotes show their tenderness towards the imperfect:

St Bernard wrote extensively on Divine love writing, ‘The measure of love is love without measure.’ He also pleaded with popes on behalf of those who showed the slightest sign of repentance, humility and good will as he did for Bishop of Salamanca, writing to Pope Innocent II:

When the man told me the whole story of his tragedy as it had happened, I had nothing but praise for the judge and approval for the judgement; but I must tell you, I was moved by pity for the judged.  The whole theme of his story was those words of the Prophet: ‘I have been lifted up only to be cast down and left bewildered’, and ‘so low hast thou brought me who didst once lift me up on high’. When I thought of your justice and your strong character, which I used to know so well, I thought at the same time of your great mercy which I have experienced on so many occasions…I found grounds for hope, confidence for my petition, a reason for my pity, in that I saw the man did not, as is usual in such cases, turn away in fury, and return to his native land, there to stir up scandals and foment schisms; but that he gave place to wrath, adopted an attitude of meekness, and turned his steps towards your monks of Cluny there to throw himself at the knees of the humble monks and fortify himself with their intercession, as with powerful arms from God.’ (‘St Bernard of Clairvaux – As Seen Through His Selected Letters’)

St Bonaventure on love of God and his neighbour:Give me, O Lord, such great fervour and immense love that I shall see no difference between this or that life, this or that state, person, time, or place, but shall do what is most pleasing to You, whatever or wherever it may be, tending always to You by the affection of my soul. Grant that I may see all things in You, and nothing but You in them, ever eager and anxious to serve You in all things; and that, all on fire and burning with love, I may not take into consideration what is easiest and most agreeable for me, but only what is most pleasing to You.

     Grant, O Lord, that I may imitate the angelic spirits who, although they are with us, never interrupt their divine contemplation. May I treat and serve my brethren by seeing and enjoying You in them, and may I always assist my neighbour, offering my heart to You.’ (cited in ‘Divine Intimacy’)

St Therese of Lisieux on patience and tenderness towards the imperfect: ‘Perfect love means putting up with other people’s shortcomings, feeling no surprise at their weaknesses, finding encouragement even in the slightest evidence of good qualities in them.’ (‘The Autobiography of a Soul’)

St Teresa of Avila on compassion towards one’s neighbour: “For at times it happens that some trifle will cause as much suffering to one as a great trial will to another; little things can bring much distress to persons who have sensitive natures. If you are not like them, do not fail to be compassionate.” (‘The Way of Perfection’)

Footnote 3:

The Irish priest and scholar, Fr Edward Leen, has been quoted a number of times in this blog. It is highly recommended to readers that they check out his inspirational books such as ‘Why the Cross?’, ‘In the Likeness of Christ’ or ‘My Last Retreat’.  See here for a sample of his writing from another of his books, ‘Progress Through Mental Prayer’. These books are very helpful for inspiring and encouraging the desire for true perfection in ourselves.

Not Recognising Ourselves in the Mirror

Wickedness is fearful, it beareth witness of its condemnation: for a troubled conscience always forecasteth grievous things.’ – Wisdom 17:10

There comes a time in everyone’s life where we catch glimpses of the true state of our life and our soul. It is reflected in the angst of modern popular music where singers describe not being able to recognise themselves in the mirror. For example, the popular Irish singer-songwriter Mick Flannery in his song, ‘Keepin’ Score’ sings, ‘I pass the mirror, and I look into my eyes, And I see a man there that I do not recognize’ and the popular English band ‘You Me at Six’ sing, ‘Just got the mirror on the way out, Don’t recognize myself anymore now’. (‘Fast Forward’). This experience is also reflected across mental health forums and groups where many people who are having psychological issues report this ‘not recognising oneself’ phenomenon. (A quick internet search using the term ‘I do not recognise myself’ reveals the extent of this angst in our current times). These moments can be full of agony and turmoil. Yet, these glimpses can give us insight into the path we are on. They are often wake up calls about the reality of our lives. They can be a manifestation of our conscience and often show us things that we would rather not see. Sometimes, they are not just glimpses, but clear illuminations of the state of our souls. They sometimes give us an insight into the state of our souls almost as clearly as the changing portrait of Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s novel (See footnote 1).

So, what do we do when we catch these glimpses of truth in our reflections? The immediate option might be to run from the image we have seen of ourselves or we may wish to hide away from it or cover it up. But eventually as Dorian Gray realises, this running and hiding from his true reflection only leads to his own demise. So, what can one do when one catches a glimpse of an unrecognisable figure in the mirror?

Yet, before we answer this question, we must acknowledge a simple and clear reality:

The Reality of Conscience:

In our world, multiple erroneous, pseudointellectual, and irrational theories have arisen to explain consciousness and conscience. To these questions about consciousness and conscience, one either receives illogical and irrational answers or theorists ignore these questions altogether and build their false theories about human beings on a foundation of sand. G K Chesterton points out, in his biography on ‘St Thomas Aquinas’, how a science about man that does not answer fundamental questions about man cannot be considered a science: ‘It is necessary to know whether [man] is responsible or irresponsible, perfect or imperfect, perfectible or unperfectible, mortal or immortal, doomed or free: not in order to understand God, but in order to understand man. Nothing that leaves these things under a cloud of religious doubt can possibly pretend to be a Science of Man…Has a man free will; or is his sense of choice an illusion? Has he a conscience, or has his conscience any authority; or is it only the prejudice of the tribal past? Is there any real hope of settling these things by human reason; and has that any authority?…Now it is all nonsense to say that these are unknowable in any remote sense, like the distinction between the Cherubim and the Seraphim, or the Procession of the Holy Ghost.  The Schoolmen [i.e. Scholastic Philosophers] may have shot too far beyond our limits in pursuing the Cherubim and Seraphim. But in asking whether a man can choose or whether a man will die, they were asking ordinary questions in natural history; like whether a cat can scratch or whether a dog can smell. Nothing calling itself a complete Science of Man can shirk them.’ (my emphasis). For hundreds of years, we have been immersed in sciences that have shirked these ordinary and vital questions about man or have explained conscience away as ‘prejudice of the tribal past’. Yet, a little investigation reveals that these questions have been decidedly answered already, especially by the ‘Schoolmen’, i.e. scholastic theologians of the Middle Ages, e.g. St Thomas Aquinas, thus establishing a complete ‘Science of Man’. (See footnote 2)

The Importance of Conscience

If conscience is certain, leaves no doubt, and shows clearly what should be done, it must be followed. What it commands must be done; what it forbids must be omitted; what it allows may be done or omitted.’ – Professor Charles A. Dubray, ‘Introductory Philosophy’

Our conscience is an essential guide in our path towards true happiness and peace of soul. While it is not infallible and it is not always clear it is often a warning light that alerts us to the dangerous path we are on. Mostly one’s conscience produces occasional sharp glimpses of this lethal path we are on. For example, we are given brief moments when we catch ourselves in the mirror but we do not recognise the person we have become. At other times, it may be more powerful than this. The extent of one’s misery can become as clear as day and, when its commands are followed, rapid change can occur, as happened to Blessed Villana de Botti, whose early life was full of vice and vanity:  ‘One night Villana was preparing for an entertainment of unwonted splendour.  She was dressed with all the sumptuous extravagance of the times; jewels sparkled in her hair, on her arms, on her very shoes.  Before leaving her room, she went to cast one parting glance the mirror. But, instead of the dazzling image of her own beauty, a horrible spectacle met her eyes. God had permitted that the deformity of the soul within should become visible on the outward person. Her hair, bound with gold and jewelled chains, she beheld transformed into a mass of coiled and venomous serpents; her fair face was darkened into that of a hideous negro; her eyes were red and fiery, and, instead of her beautiful mouth and ivory teeth, there grinned the open jaws of a monster of hell.  Then Villana’s heart opened to know where and whence she had fallen. She tore the jewels from her hair and left her palace, not for the gay entertainment that awaited her, but for the neighbouring church of the Dominicans, where, flinging herself at the feet of a holy Friar, she made, amidst tears of contrition, the confession of her life.’ (‘Short Lives of the Dominican Saints’, ed. Fr John Proctor). At other times, one’s conscience is pricked by those who hold up mirrors to ourselves. For example, in the life of St John Bosco, it is related how a person tried to rob him. St. John Bosco humbly asked the thief why he would resort to such a thing knowing it was against his conscience. The thief, seeing the reality of the words that this great saint spoke, ceased his efforts and, instead of trying to rob St John Bosco, he asked him for confession. (‘St John Bosco: Seeker of Souls’ by F. A. Forbes). Our conscience is a useful guide and simply acknowledging its counsels and following them can be the best advice that can be given to a person. This is reflected in the words of advice of St. Bernard to his wayward nephew, Robert, ‘Listen to your conscience, examine your intentions, consider the facts.’ (‘St Bernard of Clairvaux: As Seen Through His Selected Letters’, translated by Rev. Bruno Scott James).  But we must humbly ‘consider the facts’ so that there is no doubt in our conscience and it becomes clear what should be done. So, let us look at the facts explaining what a good conscience is so that we can safely listen to and follow it. First, we will look at the potential obstacles to the formation of a good conscience.

The Fallibility And Persistence of One’s Conscience:

Our conscience can err. What we occasionally catch glimpses of in the mirror may not be as hideous nor as beautiful as we believe it to be. We may see ourselves as more deplorable, helpless, and hopeless than we actually are or we may see ourselves as more beautiful, righteous, and noble than we actually are.  Many of us who seek the truth also desire to know the truth about ourselves. We want answers to the glimpses we see of ourselves. There is a sense that we have caught a glimpse of something within ourselves that may be true, but it has frightened, perplexed, or frozen us. Even hedonistic distractions and keeping ourselves constantly busy cannot shake the memory of what we saw. Like Dorian Gray we may try to hide these images away, but we cannot do so without them coming back to haunt us.

‘Escapism never succeeds. In every sinner whose frustrations and neuroses are due to a burdened conscience, there is a latent contradiction. He is pulled in two directions. He is not so much at ease with sin as to be able to make it his definite vocation, nor, on the other hand, is he so much in love with God, as to disavow his faults.’ – Bishop Fulton Sheen, ‘Peace of Soul’

We can try out all sorts of medications to correct a supposed ‘chemical imbalance’ when it may very well be the voice of our conscience speaking to us. We can bounce from one type of therapy or treatment to another, yet that restlessness remains. We can try to justify our vices, but a part of us knows our justifications are mere excuses. Instead of pursuing the higher path and the virtuous life we often try to cover up our failings and pursue lower, more base pleasures. If one who is called to the religious life engages in this sort of behaviour it has all sorts of hideous consequences as Fr Eugene Boylan points out, ‘If [the religious] try to find peace in the pursuit of some lower pleasure, he soon finds that he must go to extremes to try to drown the prickings of his conscience and the pangs of that deep-seated hunger of his higher self that can find no food in such folly, and so his days are full of ever-growing misery.’ (‘Difficulties in Mental Prayer’) (This goes some way to explain why once priests fall into vice they can fall into such scandalous perversion). Now, all of us can engage in all sorts of depravity to sedate the conscience so much so that we can resemble the voice of lost souls who no longer even glimpse happiness, ‘Where is happiness?’ and his warped conscience answers, ‘There is no happiness.’ (Dom Anscar Vonier, ‘The Human Soul and its Relations with Other Spirits’). Yet, in this life, the voice of conscience remains, however dimly felt it might have become. There is still the sense that ‘I am not all that I should be’. The teachings of the Catholic Faith and the lives of the saints provide the external guides to what we should be. The voice of, a still sensitive, conscience provides some further internal guidance as to what we should and should not be. Yet, it is fallible so how do we know when to assent to the reality it hints at?

In order that conscience may be a safe rule and criterion, its judgements must be a reflex of the divine judgements. It must show us to ourselves such as we really are, and appear to the eyes of God Himself. It must be like a balance which corresponds to the recognised standard of weight; like a clock which marks faithfully the passing moments of time, like a thermometer which indicates accurately the degrees of heat and cold.’ – R. J. Meyer, S. J., ‘The Science of the Saints’

As I have related in other articles, if we need help in calibrating our conscience, we should seek counsel from wise authorities rather than just any authority. We must go to those who have expert knowledge on matters of conscience just as we would seek medical advice from those who have medical expertise. As Professor Dubray explains, ‘In the same way that, if I do not see, I may rely on, and be guided by, those who do, and that my eyes be treated by the oculist, and my errors corrected by others or by my own deeper study and reflection, so my moral judgement may be based on another man’s authority, changed, improved, and corrected.’ (‘Introductory Philosophy’). We must seek guidance from people who understand the truth about what man is and what man should be. We should avoid those who flatter or placate us with ‘sweet, little lies.’ We should make efforts to avoid deceiving our conscience by listening to vain babblings or sophisticated pseudo-intellectual arguments which justify our vices and sinful ways. Rather, with the help of God, we should look at ourselves in the mirror and tackle what we see there. We must ask God to give us the fortitude to see ourselves clearly. With Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, author of the classic book, ‘Divine Intimacy’, we can pray to God that He ‘take away from my conscience the mask of vain, pitiful excuses which prevents me from seeing myself as You see me and know me, as I really am in Your eyes.’ We, like Blessed Villana, must count it as a grace to see the truth about ourselves and, like her, we can respond to this grace in a humble and contrite manner (See footnote 3).

‘I endeavour to have always a conscience without offence towards God, and towards men.’ – St. Paul (Acts 24: 16)

When we seek counsel, we must be wary of who we trust with this difficult but essential task. As St Bernard advised his wayward nephew, ‘If sinners shall entice you, consent not to them. Believe not every spirit. Be at peace with many, but let one in a thousand be your counsellor. Gird yourself, cast off your seducers, shut your eyes to flatterers.’ Yet, there are those who can help us on our way to ‘a conscience without offence towards God, and towards men.’ There are those who will direct us towards the real solutions when we are faced with a confused, perplexed, or rattled conscience, i.e. when we do not recognise ourselves in the mirror. This can often take the form of a wise and loving friend or a pious and knowledgeable family member or a prudent and holy priest or you may find some assistance in the service that I offer here. Whoever it may be, may they help you on the straight and narrow path.

Finally, may you receive the grace to see yourself clearly in the mirror. May you succeed in your efforts to inform, understand, and follow your conscience and may charity, peace of soul and liberty of spirit be the fruits of these efforts.

God bless

Footnote 1: This piece (see here: https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/art/the-long-conversion-of-oscar-wilde.html) by Andrew McCracken provides more information on Oscar Wilde’s novel, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, which he describes as a ‘portrayal of a sensitive man numbing himself to all feeling for others, of an ego turning monstrous, of a soul choosing evil.’  He shows the close relations between this novel and Wilde’s own life, which appears to have ended in a much happier way than the main character in his novel.

Footnote 2: For further insight into the scholastic understandings about conscience and for a more detailed analysis of conscience, see: https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04268a.htm

Footnote 3: Like Blessed Villana, and despite of the difficult times we find ourselves in, may we follow this grace that reveals the truth about the state of our soul and seek out the Sacrament of Confession/Penance. ‘Penance, as a virtue and as a Sacrament, has for is object and effect the blotting out of our faults, the eradication of sin, and the purifying of the conscience, so that grace may reign and bring forth fruit in the soul from the pure motive of pleasing God.’ (Fr Genelli, ‘The Life of St Ignatius of Loyola’) (My emphasis)