Staying Sane as Society Goes Insane

The organization of society is intended to aid man, considered formally as a person destined for God, to attain union with Him.’ – ‘The Mystical Body of Christ and the Reorganisation of Society’ – Fr Fahey

To help people on the road to true happiness, society needs to guide and direct people along this path.  First, one must know and identify the destination, i.e. Heaven, and have a good and accurate understanding of what a human being is, i.e. a soul and a body, so we can be guided there safely.  One must identify what helps and what hinders us on this path. 

It is the function of society – or the union of men working together to achieve happiness – to provide the conditions of life in which men can work successfully to attain true happiness…We might say briefly that society provides the peace and the harmony which enable men to work together to attain the common good of all men.’ ‘My Way of Life’ – Frs Farrell & Healy.

The ‘common good’, in the above quote, does not refer to what the majority of people believe to be good but rather what is good objectively.  The ultimate common good remains the same even if all the citizens in a particular nation happen to be unaware or ignorant of it.  Direction towards the common good, which involves the promotion of the virtuous life, is essential for the mind.  The mind is nourished on the truth.  Those who live a life perfectly in accordance with the truth and direct their soul on a straight path towards Heaven live a perfectly happy life (As happy as can be achieved in this valley of tears on earth at any rate).  The lives of the saints who lived lives completely dedicated to knowing, honouring and loving God are the examples of how a life should be lived.  Carol Robinson in her excellent book, ‘My Life with Thomas Aquinas’ describes how ‘the normal man is the hierarchical man, of whom the exemplar is the saint…The saint is the most sane of men, because the concept of sanctity includes perfect sanity.  That is why peace is the fruit of holiness, because peace is defined as the tranquillity of order, which tranquillity consists in all the appetitive movements in one man being set at rest together.’  A society with true happiness/Heaven as the objective for its citizens, i.e. the common good of all, would be ordered in such a way as to promote and encourage sanctity and, therefore, sanity as well.   It would realise that there are many temptations that can pull people away from the straight and narrow path and it would structure itself so the snares of the devil, the corruption of the world and the passions of the flesh would have less chance of gaining an upper hand on people and leading them to their eternal demise.  As Pope St Pius X advised the French Hierarchy, in his Letter on the Sillon, at the start of the twentieth century, ‘The social machinery ought to be so organised as by its natural action to paralyse the efforts of the wicked.’ Social efforts, in this regard, not only protect the soul but they protect the mind as well.

Ireland 2019:

These modern times in Ireland are particularly crazy as the social machinery works against the common good and encourages people to lose both their mind and soul.  The legalization of homosexual ‘marriage’ and ‘abortion’/the killing of innocent babies, have been the two most obvious recent examples of this.  The promotion of vice through TV, internet, advertising, smartphones, and the lack of systematic attempts to stop this, are just more signs of the social machinery working towards the corruption of souls.  This promotion of disorder contributes to people’s passions getting a hold of their reason and minds becoming detached from reality.  Vice and sin have become so much part of the air we breathe that what was once considered evil is, now, considered ‘normal’ or acceptable.  As Fr Ripperger points out, ‘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.’ (‘Introduction to the Science of Mental Health’).  Our society is becoming sicker and sicker and its contagion is spreading.  There are some people pushing back courageously against this contagion at a personal or familial level as they find strategies and ways of keeping themselves and their loved ones safe. For example, parents taking their children out of school and homeschooling them to protect them from corruption.  At a societal level, the battle is being lost and the ‘progressives’ and ‘liberals’ are marching on, while leaving a trail of destruction in their path.  God have mercy on them!

There are some noble efforts to push back against the disorder in society, which usually come from conservative nationalist movements, but these groups must remember the wise words of Pope Leo XIII from his 1888 encyclical on ‘The Right Ordering of Christian Life’, Exeunte Iam Anno, ‘They who strive by the enforcement of law to extinguish the ever-growing flame of popular passions, strive indeed for what is right and just; but they will labour with little or no result so long as they obstinately reject the power of the Gospel and refuse the assistance of the Church.  These evils can be cured only by a change of principles, and by returning in public and private conduct to Jesus Christ and to a Christian rule of life.’  For those who challenge the idea that the Catholic Faith is not the solution to societal ills, Pope Leo XIII replies with these words from St Augustine, ‘Let those who say that the teaching of Christ is hurtful to the State, produce such armies as the maxims of Jesus have enjoined soldiers to bring into being; such governors of provinces; such husbands and wives; such parents and children; such masters and servants; such kings; such judges, and such payers and collectors of tribute, as the Christian teaching instructs them to become, and then let them dare to say that such teaching is hurtful to the State. Nay, rather will they hesitate to own that this discipline, if duly acted up to, is the very mainstay of the commonwealth.’  Unfortunately, Pope Leo XIII’s words fell on many deaf ears during his time. Today, the rot has gotten so bad that one sees the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, attempting to push Catholicism out of health and social policies altogether, tweeting that ‘Religion will not play a role in our health and social policy anymore’. The damage that this is doing and would do will be catastrophic. May he realise the error of his ways before it is too late!

In the midst of the social chaos around us, one could become disheartened and potentially fall into despair.  This service, Truth and Freedom Therapy, acknowledges that there are some natural ways of fortifying yourself against the craziness of the world, e.g. basic healthy nutrition and exercise, getting away from the city and its toxicity, talking to a good Catholic friend or therapist, but it also acknowledges its limitations and knows what it cannot provide.  To keep one’s sanity in the current climate one needs as much grace and supernatural assistance as possible as Don Felix Sarda Y Salvany points out in his brilliant book, ‘Liberalism Is A Sin’, ‘Unless supernaturally fortified and enlightened, human nature under this moral oppression soon gives way to “human respect”’.  The danger of giving into human respect is a huge temptation today with the faithful vastly outnumbered and ridiculed for sticking to the truth.  We need every drop of grace that Our Lord blesses us with.  We need to nourish ourselves on the Faith, reject the world and its madness and give the world what it needs, i.e. the Truth, rather than expecting anything from it.  People who are determined to hold onto the Faith, their reason, and their sanity, face a tricky battle today, but, as Henry Sire points out in his powerful book, ‘Phoenix from the Ashes: The Making, Unmaking and Restoration of Catholic Tradition’, ‘The great missionary successes of the Church have been won by men who had no illusions about the world that they faced, and who knew that their task was to give it the things that it lacked.  Gregory the Great did not patronise armed hordes to show how he could immerse himself in the chaos of his time; he fostered monasticism, a withdrawal from the world that ended by conquering the world.  St. Augustine did not go to England with an obsequious wish to flatter the cult of Thor and Woden; he went to offer it the light of Rome, and by doing so he conquered a nation for Christ.  To know that one faces an unpropitious world does not imply an inability to evangelise it, or despair at doing so.  The Church has never faced such a mortally hostile world as the one that crucified its Saviour, yet the lesson of the crucifixation is that the world is saved in its very hostility.’ 

So, while the social machinery encourages and promotes the efforts of the wicked today, let us not marvel or wonder at the hatred the world has for the truth and those that live it (1 John 3:13). Instead let us acknowledge the reality of the challenge before us and let us ‘be wise as serpents and simple as doves’ (Matthew 10:16) and use these times to sanctify ourselves. 

God bless you in your endeavours. May you respond to and be nourished on the abundant graces He generously offers.   

Spiritual ‘Zombieness’

In St Catherine of Siena’s biography by Blessed Raymond of Capua, Blessed Raymond outlines how St Catherine was gifted with the grace of being able to see the health of people’s souls.  He explains how St Catherine was able to see past exterior appearances and obtain vivid insights into the interior life of the people she met.  This was an extraordinary grace that God had given to St Catherine due to her extraordinary sanctity.  Other saints, such as St John Vianney, were also blessed with this grace as shown by his ability to see what sins were lingering in people’s soul before they disclosed them to him.  These two saints, who were fountains of charity and who existed in far more Christian times than our own, were well aware of the darkness of people’s souls due to sin and they dedicated their lives to saving souls from this darkness.

About two weeks ago, a priest gave a graphic and hard hitting description of the state of people’s souls in Ireland today.  He explained how ‘many of those around us are physically alive but spiritually dead, morally rotten or at least infected’ going on to use the analogy of zombies to describe some of the behaviour he is seeing.  He went on to propose solutions, which some of the congregation found offensive. For trying to wake people up from this spiritual ‘zombieness’, he was shut down and his bishop and his Order apologised for his remarks.  These apologies were given as the remarks that Fr Forde made may have ‘hurt the feelings’ of some people.  Now, it can be argued that some of what he said may have been imprudent but the real questions are: How accurate was Fr Forde’s description? and was he charitable in saying what he said?

Was he accurate?

If St Catherine or St John Vianney were meeting individuals who are committing all types of sinful behavior in our modern society , what would they see?  In all probability they would see what Fr Forde referred to, i.e. people going around like zombies.  When looking at the souls of people today, they would probably see even darker and more disturbing images than this. They would be able to penetrate exterior facades and see the walking dead who have lost the light of God’s grace as they grope about in the darkness and misery of their lives.  They would be able to see how much damage these people are doing to their souls.  Due to their love of God, they would probably weep bitterly over this as St John Vianney did in his time, confiding to a friend -‘When one thinks of the ingratitude of man towards the good God, one is tempted to escape to the other side of the world so as not to see it any more. It is dreadful! And would be dreadful in any case, even if the good God were not so good! But He is so good!’ And whilst speaking thus, his face was bathed in tears.’ (From ‘Blessed John Vianney’ by Joseph Vianney)

Fr Forde seemed to want to wake his congregation up to this reality but a vocal minority in the congregation could not bear to hear how corrupt, blind and zombie-like people in Ireland had become or they could not bear to look at their own reflection. Instead of reflecting on and considering the words he spoke, they decided to shoot the messenger.  The bishop and his Order, by apologizing, added more bullets.  The messenger was shot and his message was discarded.   

It is rare that people are given the grace to be able to see spiritual realities. We can not normally see the spiritual warfare that is happening around us.  Fr Forde had a certain glimpse of this and he decided to share this with his congregation.  For warning souls of the peril they are in he was silenced and lambasted.  For speaking the truth and explaining the current situation in Ireland accurately, Fr Forde was given a taste of what it means to be hated by the world.  Hopefully he will take solace in St John’s advice, ‘Marvel, not brethren, if the world hate you.’ (1 John 3:13)

Was he charitable?

There are people like Fr Forde who are trying to wake people up to the truth and the reality of life.  For this, they are being silenced, persecuted and ridiculed.  (Israel Folau’s experience with Rugby Australia is just another recent example of this). In Fr Forde’s case, this silencing was done by the very people who are meant to defend the Truth, i.e. Catholic bishops.  Due to bishops and priests abandoning the divine mission they have been given by Christ, people are not hearing the message about how toxic sin is and how damaging it is. In his masterpiece, Summa Theologica, St Thomas Aquinas outlines how sin leads to loss of human dignity and liberty: ‘1) that by sinning, man departs from the order of right reason and thereby falls away from his human dignity; and that 2) he thus loses his right to a certain liberty’ or as Pope Leo XIII explains in his encyclical, Immortale Dei, If the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fullness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption.

In our current age, individuals are slipping more and more into sinful behavior and rotting their souls. This is leading to increased cases of psychological distress, anguish and despair as sin has a devastating impact on people’s psychological health.  Sin is an enemy of mental well being and it leads to zombie like behavior. As Fr Ripperger states, ‘No psychological theory which condones sin can ever be one that contributes to the mental health of individuals or a society.’ (‘Introduction to the Science of Mental Health’).  One of the most serious consequences of sin is its ability to blind people to their behavior and bind them to the urging of their passions rather than reason.  As Professor Charles A. Dubray outlines, ‘[Passions] race towards their goal so furiously that they are exclusively led by lust and pleasure without seeking the advice of reason.’ (‘Introductory Philosophy’).  Once engaged in mortal sin and once you have removed yourself from the grace of God, a person’s intellect becomes darkened, his will becomes weak and his passions and lusts take control.  One is unable to see clearly.  One is unable to control one’s actions as easily as one can do when living a life of grace.  Like zombies, one stumbles around as one’s mind is darkened and damaged. If one only chases after carnal pleasures, e.g. fornication, homosexual acts, one will die spiritually, as St Paul tells us, ‘For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.’ (Romans 9:13).

Sinful behavior also carries a threat of contamination.  Just as the alcoholic needs to avoid certain places or people to avoid relapsing, if one is truly determined to avoid sinning one must avoid certain places or people who are committing grave sins.  St Paul warns us about the need to be careful and to separate ourselves out from those who persist in immorality: ‘Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness?…  Wherefore, Go out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.’ (2 Cor 6: 14-17).  In many ways, Fr Forde was only repeating the words of St Paul and attempting to give an example to a modern-day audience who are familiar with the concept of zombies.   The advice he gives is not only essential for one’s salvation but has a direct impact on one’s mental health as well.

Fr Forde’s remarks about ‘shooting or stabbing zombies in the brain’ seems to have caused most of the uproar and accusations of hate speech.  However, even the Irish Independent, atheist journalist, Ian O’Doherty, (who is no fan of the Catholic Church) recognized that it is ridiculous to interpret these words literally.  Fr Forde went on to assert that the only cure for spiritual death and zombie-like behavior was to be obedient to Christ.  This remains the only cure when one is hooked on sin, i.e. obedience to Christ and His Church.  Highlighting the problem accurately and offering effective solutions is an excellent form of charity. It is one that psychologists and any other mental health professionals should be giving when one sees zombie-like behavior in people as a result of sinful behavior.  

May those who are groping around irrationally in the dark be led by the grace of God into the light and may God bless Fr Forde in his charitable efforts to save people’s souls!

The City/Country Divide

‘Take me away from the city, and leave me to where I can be on my own’ – Opening line, ‘Summer in Dublin’ – Bagatelle

Across the world, people regularly speak about a city/country or urban/rural divide.  This is often spoke about in Ireland with much jovial and fun filled banter about the ‘Jackeens’ up in Dublin and the ‘culchies’ or ‘boggers’ down the country.  There are many stereotypes thrown at one group to another but often the differences we speak about are exaggerated rather than grounded in reality. (Go to any Gaelic football or hurling match and you will see how banter between the counties is all part of a good day out and this exaggeration is all part of the craic). However, in saying the above, it must be noted that there are differences in attitudes between those living in city and rural areas. These differences were clearly shown in the different levels of support for the last three Referenda in Ireland.

The last three Referenda in Ireland have shown a clear division between city areas and rural areas. For example, in the homosexual ‘marriage’ Referendum, the five areas that reported the highest support for this homosexual ‘marriage’ were all in the Dublin region. The five areas that were least in support of this unnatural ‘union’ were all rural areas, i.e. Roscommon-South Leitrim, Donegal South West, Cavan/Monaghan, Mayo and Donegal North East.  In the abortion Referenda, the five areas that had the highest support for abortion were all in the Dublin region. The five areas that were least in support of this atrocity were all rural areas, i.e. Donegal, Cavan-Monaghan, Mayo, Roscommon-Galway and Offaly.  Again in the most recent blasphemy Referendum, the five areas most in support of removing the Second Commandment from Irish law were in all in the Dublin region while the five areas least in support of it were rural areas, i.e. Donegal, Roscommon-Galway, Sligo-Leitrim, Cavan-Monaghan and Mayo.  So what is causing this city/rural divide?  Why is it that city dwellers are so much more likely to support legislation that promotes immorality and destroys natural laws? While not getting into the historical reasons for this division, this blog takes a brief look at some of the psychological/social reasons why this is the case.

Don’t forget the bog’:

Before I explore these questions, I must admit that I was once a city dweller who believed that he was hip and ‘progressive’ in his attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. I supported feminist causes, supported homosexual ‘rights’ and I was disgusted to see pro-life protestors outside of hospitals that provided a service that I believed women needed.  During this period, I would be a frequent customer of ‘hip’ coffee joints and trendy bars.  At one stage, in the space of about one month, I went to the theatre twice and the opera once.  I used to like telling people about how cultured and progressive I was and how backward they were if they didn’t agree with me. Some people were more impressed than others with my attitude. I told my father, who is from a farming background in rural Ireland, about these trips to the theatre and opera. I clearly remember him looking at me with some disdain and then saying, ‘Now, don’t forget the bog’. I did not quite understand what he meant and I was too proud to really give it much thought at the time but the phrase stuck with me. Now that I have thankfully seen through many of the errors of my ways, I believe that I finally understand what he meant.  At a psychological level, ‘forgetting the bog’ is what is causing much of the craziness we are seeing in the voting patterns across Ireland, especially in our cities.

So, what does it mean ‘don’t forget the bog’?  It means ‘don’t forget your roots’ and ‘don’t be getting carried away with yourself’ or ‘don’t be getting notions of yourself’ as we say in Ireland, i.e. thinking you or your generation are more enlightened than anyone who has ever come before you.  This forgetting of one’s roots and getting carried away with yourself is one of the main reasons we see the disparity in voting patterns between city and rural constituencies. In the city, one is exposed to all sorts of distractions and temptations.  This can stop people from thinking clearly as their intellect and will are weakened and darkened by the temptations they give into. Their minds often have no time to analyse things in a deep and consistent manner. There is a constant stirring up of the passions in the cities, whether it be through advertising or other messages or images that are designed to entice our sensual appetites. This makes it hard to see things clearly as Fr Ripperger notes in his book, ‘Introduction to the Science of Mental Health’, Passions affect the intellect’s ability to judge the truth of the matter due to loss of tranquility of mind which is necessary to judge truth.’  For those who wish to think deeper about moral issues (or at least look like they are doing so), they are often attracted to the arts world where shows, plays or movies are packed full of subtle and not so subtle ‘progressive’ messages.  For example, I remember going to a play, ‘The Risen People’ at the Abbey Theatre, which, on reflection, was a form of Marxist propaganda. After this play, the transgender activist, Panti Bliss, was given an opportunity to spread his message of transgender ‘acceptance’.  He received a standing ovation at the time. I was one of the first up to applaud him as, at that stage, I was truly beginning to forget the bog. 

Environments can make sin repulsive or attractive to us, for our surroundings affect us all.  But we can choose the environment we wish and can ruthlessly reject the one that leads to trouble. – Fulton Sheen

The modern city is a place which is noisy, busy, distracting, full of temptations and packed full of toxic messages promoting unnatural behavior. In this environment, it is more difficult to see the truth of things clearly.  Some people manage to keep focused on the truth but, voting patterns show that many more people in the cities, compared to those in the countryside, have lost touch with reality.  Across Ireland, but especially in the cities, there are clever ploys to distort reality and pull people’s minds in nefarious directions. People, especially young people, are exposed to much error and to many lies that are often dressed up as ‘progressive’, ‘tolerant’ and ‘compassionate’.  One’s passions are stirred, one’s will is weakened and one’s intellect is disturbed by the confused messages and images it is exposed to.  If exposed to this environment for a long enough time, memories of a different way of seeing the world can fade into the background and one may eventually start thinking that homosexual ‘marriage’, abortion and insulting God are ‘progressive’ and ‘rights’ that people need.  People in rural areas do get exposed to toxic images and messages, especially through the media and advertisements, but it is not on the same scale or at the same frequency as people in the city. It is easier to ‘not forget the bog’ in the countryside and store images and memories of a healthier and more sane society.  All of the above contributes to the heightened madness we are seeing in the cities.  As city dweller’s intellects become more darkened and confused, as false and immoral ways of viewing the world and human behavior become the social norm, and as city dweller’s wills become weaker, these patterns only increase and the toxic ideas, attitudes and behaviours only spread further. However, we still have a choice…

So I’m leaving on Wednesday morning,   trying to find a place where I can hear, the wind and the birds and the sea on the rocks, and where open roads always are near’ – Start of second verse, ‘Summer In Dublin’ – Bagatelle

So if you are someone who is living in the city and your mind is confused or you feel bewildered and are leaning towards ‘progressive’ ideas, I highly recommend that you take a break from the city and connect with the countryside and your roots once more.  Detox your mind from the toxic messages you are receiving daily.  Take time out to analyse whether the way you are thinking is grounded in the truth.  Stop thinking that people in rural Ireland are ‘behind the times’ and are only following what their forefathers believed.  Those in rural Ireland are closer to the truth than you realise. City folk have more to learn from ‘boggers’ and ‘culchies’ than any lessons they can provide us boggers. Rather than seeing country people as mindless followers, it might be worth checking if the ‘progressive’ thoughts that you maintain are really the truth or just a product of the environment you find yourself in.  Countryside breaks may help to give you a brief return to sanity. These breaks can give you a glimpse of what peace of mind is really like but they won’t solve all your problems. It makes me think of the show on BBC called ‘Escape to the Country’.  It sells commercial dreams of getting away from the city madness.  This appeals to people as many people are looking to escape and experience freedom. In general, it is good advice to try to escape toxic environments but this show never addresses the fundamental problem of the toxic ideas that may have built up in people’s minds due to the influence of modern city living.  One must also overcome one’s darkened and false way of seeing the world if one is to truly escape. Changing one’s environment is a start; changing one’s mind, heart and behavior, so they conform with the truth and reality, is the solution.