Sanctity & Sanity (2/2)


Few would deny, however unsatisfactory their own lives, that to be a saint is the supreme expression of human life on earth.  We recognise in sanctity or great holiness the closest possible relationship between a man and God who is supreme Reality, the supreme Truth, Goodness and Beauty.’ – Introduction, ‘Francois de Sales’ – Michael de le Bedoyere

The last article on ‘Sanctity and Sanity’ spoke about the various modern proposals that are offered as ways of alleviating psychological distress.  These range from toxic legal and illegal drugs to dangerous new age practices.  But there is one solution to psychological distress that is guaranteed to work.  Now, this solution does not take away physical pain, nor does it take away suffering that life inevitably brings.  It offers a cross to carry.  This is its central symbol and message. To many, it does not appear to be a great solution yet its Founder asserts that it is the only path.  This solution is the road to sanctity through the Catholic Faith. Many reject this offer and Him who offers it, because they see this offer as unhelpful for their happiness and sanity as Fr Edward Leen (‘Why the Cross?’) explains,  ‘Men once killed the heir and thought that, by stifling his voice, the inheritance of earth would be theirs.  In all ages the same crime is repeated, instigated by the same idle expectations. Men, again and again, seek to slay Christ, living in His Church, and indulge the hope that, once they have silenced Him, they will be left in tranquil enjoyment of the earth and the fullness thereof.  They persist in regarding Christ, and Christ because of His Cross, as the great barrier to their happiness and well-being.’ Let us not despair at this offer. If it was solely the pain of the cross that was offered and promised to us, then we may have a right to feel aggrieved.  Yet, Christ also promised that this burden, if willingly taken up, would be light.  His life on earth and the examples of the saints only show us how infinitely good and generous God is in this supreme offer.  ‘God is infinite goodness.  Goodness seeks nothing except to give itself and to communicate the riches which it enjoys.’ (Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, ‘The Soul of the Apostolate’). God seeks to enrich us with His happiness.  He implores us to take up His offer as He promises to satiate the desire for happiness in us.

These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled,’ (John 15:11)

Man has an innate desire for happiness.  ‘The craving for happiness comes from the bottom of the human nature.’ (Dom Anscar Vonier, ‘The Human Soul and Its Relations with Other Spirits’).  This search for happiness is what drives man on.  But where is this happiness to be found? When modern man views the saints, what does he see?  Does he just see their poverty, their mortifications, their penances, their low worldly position, the eccentricities of their life story and character? Does he see, through worldly eyes, only the cross and the hardships of their exterior life? Or can he see deeper and see the beauty of their hearts and souls which were filled with joy, happiness and peace?  By just looking at the exterior, through worldly eyes, does he mistakenly believe that a miserable earthly life is the deal that needs to be made with God for eternal happiness in the next?  Surely this can not be the case and Fr Edward Leen (‘Why the Cross?’) highlights how this is not so, ‘To many, religion appears to demand actual misery as a condition of future well-being.  This is a totally mistaken view of things…God does not demand unhappiness as the price of happiness.  He plans happiness here as a prelude and foretaste of happiness hereafter.’ But where is the evidence that happiness in this life is given to those who follow the Catholic way?  It is to be found in those who truly embraced the cross. It is to be found in the saints that followed Christ’s example.

When we die to something, something comes alive within us. If we die to self, charity comes alive; if we die to pride, service comes alive; if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive; if we die to anger, love comes alive.’ – Bishop Fulton Sheen, ‘Peace of Soul’

You don’t need no ticket, And you don’t pay no fee’ – Mike Scott (The Waterboys), ‘This is the Sea’

The opportunity for true happiness and joy is offered to us all. Saints have come from every conceivable walk of life. Sanctity is not solely for those born into ‘privileged’ circumstances. In God’s infinite mercy and goodness and through His gratuitous grace everyone gets a shot at sanctity. Those who have responded faithfully to these graces are the saints.  They willingly took up their crosses and followed the path that Jesus had walked before them. 

As Jesus practiced and taught, man’s true greatness and his highest liberty consists in his complete independence of what is created and in his utter subjection to the Uncreated.  Detachment from creatures and loving submission to God alone give man the greatness and happiness he instinctively aspires to.  Sanctity, or greatness of character – for they are actually the same thing – does not consist in anything external nor does it depend on it: it is to be found entirely in the interior.  The presence of this world’s goods, good or evil fortune, easy circumstances or hardship, health or sickness, protection from or exposure to the unkindness of the elements, or the perverse wills of men, these things in themselves cannot take from or add to us.’ – Fr Edward Leen, ‘In the Likeness of Christ’

But yes, it must be admitted that the lives of many saints were often hard and yes, their sufferings could be immense. But can we see the peace and joy that flourished in their hearts and, from their hearts, out into the world? What a joy it must have been to behold the joy, happiness and peace that radiated from the likes of St Bernard or St Francis of Assisi or St Catherine of Sienna or St Francis de Sales!  Thank God, they have left us glimpses of this in the words they have written and in the biographies written about them.  They give us a glimmer of the happiness that comes when one completely surrenders one’s will to that of God’s.  As Fr Leen (‘In the Likeness of Christ’) rhetorically asks, ‘Was there ever a man who had completely surrendered his will to the will of God who could not confess that he was supremely happy?’  These were men and women who truly tasted the Lord and saw how sweet He is (Psalms 33:9).  These saints are not those who ‘dabble’ with the Catholic Faith, who are lukewarm and having got an incomplete and inaccurate sense of it, eventually drift away from it.  If truly living the Catholic Faith brings peace, happiness and joy in this life then we should look to those who truly lived it to the fullest for guidance. As Fr D’Arcy, described by Henry Sire as ‘the philosopher of Christian love’, points out in his book, ‘Mirage and Truth’, ‘The argument of those who have given up religion should receive little attention, unless they can claim with truth that they tried and tested it to the full. If we appeal to those who have gone the full distance and not fallen out with a broken wind we shall find invariably that they have experienced an incomparable joy and enjoyed a fullness of being which can only be called divine.

But if imitating Christ and the saints and following the Catholic Faith brings such joy why do we not see this in Irish society today?  Ireland still has many people who profess to be Catholic.  However, we all know Catholics who appear to be more miserable, irrational and more unbalanced than atheists we may know.  Too often it is bitterness, harshness and resentment, rather than joy, love and peace, that exudes from them.  The joy that Christ promised to His followers does not appear to be present in them and they provide no encouragement for taking up, what they propose to be, their beliefs. The young person who has been told that the Catholic Faith is the way to happiness may look away in disillusionment, if not disgust. Yet this is not the fault of the Catholic Faith but a problem in its application as Fr Leen (‘Why the Cross?’) explains, ‘If Christians in considerable numbers are not happy, it is not because they are followers of Jesus Christ, but because they follow Him very far off, very hesitatingly, and with many a start aside by the way. Happiness (not, however, unattended by suffering) is for those who ‘believe in’ Him, and of the many who subscribe to His teaching theoretically, there are relatively few that adhere to it practically.’  He explains how it is the saints who ‘understood Christianity to be what it actually is, a divinely fashioned instrument, made for the express purpose of transforming human nature.  Christianity guarantees this result – this divine transformation of humanity – if it be applied to the work…It does not guarantee this result if inadequately used, or if ill used; and ill used it must be, if not wholly accepted or if badly understood’ and he points out how it was the saints, through their application of the graces they received, that ‘became human beings – more human than the others, and yet human beings who diffused rays of the divinity.’  These saints inspired people around them.  People saw God in the saints.  It is to their lives that we must look if we are going to be as happy and peaceful as we can be in this life.  Society, especially in these times of mass apostasy from the Faith, may call this solution to psychological distress mad or foolish as they offer their modern ‘progressive’ and ‘enlightened’ approaches to distress, but as St Francis de Sales (‘The Devout Life’) said to those who received ridicule for aspiring to Christian perfection, if ‘the world considers us fools, let us consider it mad.’

The Christian idea of perfection, of completion, is, in part, in every humanism; the idea of self-surrender is in every mystic; the idea of love is in every human heart. And is there not in the various forms of socialism and communism, in the mutualism of the modern humanists, some hint of that idea which is in the Church herself, that union which transcends altruism and is so much more personal, more living, than any form of communism, that communion of saints which is also the communion of us ordinary sinners, for in it are included all those who own Christ for their head?’ I am the true vine, ye are the branches’ – it is a member of the mystical Body of Christ that the Christian sees the face of his birth, God’s ideal of what manner of man he should be.’ –Coudenhove, ‘Burden of Belief’

The solution to one’s psychological battles is not to be found in convoluted modern psychological theories.  They are not to be found in non-Catholic mystics, gurus and shamans who make a living from Westerners who had the Truth at one stage and who appear desperate to find it again. They are not to be found in the falsehoods of psychiatry nor are they to be found in the deluded utopian visions of humanists, sociologists and communists. They are to be found in willingly picking up one’s cross and following the example of those happy holy Catholic souls that have come before us.

Now, the road to sanctity is narrow.  Obstacles, temptations and sufferings will be encountered along the way. But there is a choice to be made.  The grace that opens one’s eyes to the reality of this choice can come with its own challenges for those who have grown accustomed to their own way of viewing the world as Ida Friederike Coudenhove (‘The Burden of Belief’) outlines, ‘It is perfectly true…that on the purely natural plane, something, even a great deal, may be destroyed through the irruption of Grace as a consciously life-forming principle. It really is an irruption, where the individual has shut himself up in his right little, tight little world; it shatters the clear security he enjoys in the order of visible, calculable things, and exposes him to all the storms of the infinite. Now he is torn in two, and his way lies through night and conflict, through the struggles and tension of inward transformation, through the unspeakably long, dark agony of dying to be born again: everything that you have read behind the smiling countenance of the saints.’ This straight and narrow path, which involves inward transformation, is the only true way to happiness.  It is a far more joyful route than the route that the world offers with its fleeting pleasures, vanities and vicious snares.  This path of virtue is the route that makes the saints smile and which finds them radiating their happiness and joy to others.  It is open to everyone. 

Finally, let us respond to the prayer of St Paul who prays that ‘You may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth: To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.’ (Eph 3:18-19).  Essentially, may you be a saint.

Sanctity & Sanity (1/2)


‘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’

The following blog is the first of a two-piece article on the relationship between sanctity, i.e. a holy and virtuous life, and sanity, i.e. peace of soul.  The first piece gives a brief overview of this relationship from a scientific, philosophical and historical perspective. The second piece will provide examples of people who have lived holy, peaceful and joyous lives.

Wickedness and Insanity – The Current State of Affairs:

Whereas the expert is tolerant of some fashion and prepared to take seriously the proposition that he is no more than the table he is looking at, he is unduly annoyed, if it be suggested that the word soul is in place in a discussion on psychology, that the science of ethics has a number of loose ends unless some kind of immortality be admitted, that a serious philosophy cannot avoid the conception of a divine being.  He seems to feel that the game is not being played fairly, that he is being forced to present at some séance.’ – Fr M C D’Arcy, ‘Mirage and Truth’

Today, there are many different solutions proposed to solve mental health issues.  Some of these include medication, exercise, dietary changes, slowing down/staying more present, getting out into nature and going to see a counsellor or psychotherapist.  While all of these can be of some benefit, there is one sure fire method of maintaining one’s sanity in the crazy world we find ourselves in. This solution to psychological difficulties is rarely talked about in our modern times.  This solution is living a holy and virtuous life.  This effective solution for psychological issues has fallen out of favour in our world today as people grasp at more ‘progressive’ solutions, which condone or even encourage sinful lifestyles or encourage people to take prescription drugs that are often toxic and ineffective.  Many professionals dismiss or only pay lip service to any talk of the soul or the importance of a moral life. Hence, many of our modern approaches are causing far more harm than good. One can find numerous professionals highlighting the problems with the psychotropic drugs people are being prescribed (see here: www.rxisk.org ; here: https://joannamoncrieff.com/; and here: https://davidhealy.org/psychiatry-gone-astray/ for just three examples). I have highlighted elsewhere how dangerous counselling can be if the counsellor is detached from the truth themselves.

It is his own perfection that man is instinctively reaching out after in all his restless strivings, or rather it is God, Who alone can complete and perfect man.  We are unhappy because we are not perfect, and we are not perfect because we have not that plenitude of existence for which we crave and for which we have the capacity.  Perfection means fullness of life, and fullness of life means complete happiness.’ – Fr Edward Leen, ‘In the Likeness of Christ’

Even when one is taking good care of one’s body, is getting out into nature often and is taking the time to slow and appreciate things around them, it does not keep one immune from psychological difficulties.  While the body may be healthy, there is still lack of peace in the mind for many.  There is a restlessness of the soul, which manifests itself in one’s mind and body.  There is a desire for perfection that burns within us and which can spring into our consciousness as pain or bewilderment or disillusionment or deep sorrow that we cannot quite explain. Psychiatrists often explain this away as a chemical imbalance in the brain (with scant and poor evidence to back up this assertion) and sociologists explain this restlessness as a reaction to social inequality or social injustice (yet the socialist utopias they have dreamt up and forced on people have only turned into dystopian nightmares).  These modern explanations for this restlessness lack grounding in evidence, logic and reason. The ‘old’ explanation for this restlessness is rarely talked about today. It is even more rarely accepted as the true explanation, i.e. one’s distress is caused by not living an ordered life in accordance with God’s will. Once this explanation is accepted as the reason for most psychological difficulties today, the solution becomes obvious – living an ordered life in accordance with God’s will, i.e. living a holy and virtuous life. (I say ‘most’ as I am not ruling out the fact that, in some cases, psychological agitation is caused by a physiological issue or the oppressive social circumstances one finds oneself in but, even with these factors at play, a strong Faith is still key to overcoming or managing them).  A sincere desire to find and follow God’s will will bring one to the truth, i.e. the Catholic Faith. But some might ask, where is the evidence for the Catholic Faith contributing to psychological well-being?

Sanctity and Sanity – The Scientific Evidence:

No psychological theory which condones sin can ever be one that contributes to the mental health of individuals or a society‘ – Fr Ripperger, ‘Introduction to the Science of Mental Health’

I have highlighted elsewhere the empirical evidence for the claim that the Catholic Faith is of benefit to people’s psychological well-being.  I have also spoken about how unholy practices are promoted by psychological professionals and how they misunderstand and misdiagnose emotional reactions due to their lack of understanding of what man is.  A brief examination of the actual evidence for psychiatric interventions will lead one to see that these are not the solutions.  A critical examination of socialist/communist experiments in the twentieth century clearly shows us that these are not the solution either. In 1878, in his encyclical, Quod Apostolici Muneris, Pope Leo XIII clearly foresaw why trying to remove mention of God and eternity from the public sphere would only lead to disaster in the twentieth century: ‘After being consigned to oblivion the rewards and punishments of a future and never-ending existence, the keen longing after happiness has been narrowed down to the range of the present life. With such doctrines spread far and wide, and such licence in thought and action, it is no wonder that men of the most lowly condition, heartsick of a humble home or poor workshop, should fix eager eyes on the abodes and fortunes of the wealthy; no wonder that tranquillity no longer prevails in public or private life, or that the human race has been hurried onward to well-nigh the verge of ruin.’ Applying a critical scientific mind to the claims and practices of psychiatry and socialism highlights how damaging these approaches are.  But what does a brief examination of Church history teach us about psychological distress and its treatment?  This is what I will explore next but before we do that, we must get a clear understanding of what we are actually talking about. 

Sanctity and Sanity – The Philosophical Argument:

‘The least deviation from truth will be multiplied later a thousandfold.’ – Aristotle

To help someone with a psychological issue, one must understand what psychological order and psychological disorder look like. Now, in our modern times, because of psychological professional’s false understanding of man and his purpose in life and the embracing of these ideas by many of the Catholic hierarchy, confused and dangerous ideas about what order and disorder look like have become more and more prevalent in our society.  Prior to the Vatican II council, and before the majority of Catholics accepted the errors of the world, most Catholics had a clear understanding of what order and disorder looked like. As Catholics had a clear understanding about what man was and what the purpose of life was, this understanding revolved around virtue and vice, holiness and sin, morality and immorality. It was rooted in the understanding that we are all children of God. Dom Anscar Vonier, in his book, ‘The Human Soul’, gives an example of what Catholics were taught to believe when it came to defining disorder.  Man belongs to God, to mankind, and to himself.  He sins because he puts himself in opposition to God or to mankind, or to himself.  Belonging to God, he owes to God duties of religion; they are the most necessary and the most sacred part of his moral life.  He owes to God subjection of intellect and will.  To neglect any of his duties towards God, or to rebel against God with intellect or will is a grievous disorder, because man has placed himself in opposition to the uncreated order and harmony.  As a member of mankind, the human individual has towards mankind duties of love and justice.  The violation of those duties puts him into opposition to the human order; he is in a state of disorder.  Finally, man is not a simple entity; he is a composition of spirit and body; harmony and order for him are attained when the body obeys the spirit. If man were not a composite being, he could not sin against himself; there would be only the two preceding disorders; but being two in one, it will be disorder, if the lower part of his being is not subject to the higher part.’ Catholicism teaches that the body’s subjection to the soul, man fulfilling his duties to his fellow man, and man subjecting himself to God, are the foundation blocks for an ordered life. Deviation from any of these leads to disorder within man. This deviation also contributes to disorder in the world.  As modern psychological theories either reject or ignore this Divine order and as more and more people embrace modern errors, it is no wonder that disorder both within man, e.g. increased rates of psychological distress, suicide, and in our society, e.g. homelessness, continues to grow. 

Sanctity and Sanity – The Historical Evidence:

‘The Church…teaches us the laws that govern reality and the consequences of breaking them.  This is what Our Lord meant when He said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  For moral freedom – like every other freedom – is limited by the order of the universe…we are free to reject the teachings of Christ in His Church, just as we are free to ignore or disobey the laws of engineering; but we will find that the rejection of her laws never leads us to the perfection of our personality, as we foolishly hoped. It results, instead, in a morbid affirmation of the ego, which can even lead to self-destruction.’ – Bishop Fulton Sheen, ‘Peace of Soul’

For hundreds of years, the majority of people in the West understood, followed and lived the teachings of the Catholic Church. By the grace of God, most people adhered to the natural and Divine laws. This led to peaceful minds and harmonious societies.  People were nourished on the Divine Charity that emanated from the Church thus helping to make their burden light and the yoke sweet. As a result, psychological disorders were rare. Despite what modern scientists continuously tell us, we have not become better at identifying psychological disorders nor have we become more enlightened about or more effective in treating psychological distress.  While being ignorant of the central cause and most effective cure for psychological distress, even atheist professor of psychiatry David Healy highlights how modern treatments for ‘schizophrenia’ are worse, in terms of outcome and life expectancy, than those provided 100 years ago and that current approaches are often directly responsible for creating chronic illness and drug dependence.  Psychological disorder is on the increase mainly because we have become disconnected from the Faith.  We are tumbling into ‘psychopathic messes’, as Bishop Fulton Sheen puts it, due to our abandonment of the Catholic Faith.

But what about all those claims that the Church, especially in the Middle Ages, treated everyone as if they were possessed and treated men and women suffering from psychological issues in cruel and degrading ways?  Carol Robinson in her book, ‘My Life with Thomas Aquinas’, highlights how false these accusations are: ‘Most references to ‘medieval’ treatment of the insane in textbooks are wildly inaccurate. Snake pits were a device of the ancients; the chained inmates of Bedlam were a post-Reformation scandal; and diabolism as an all-pervasive explanation was Seventeenth Century. True history does honour to the Church. The admirable Gheel system of allowing freedom of the village to harmless lunatics was started by a cult to St Dymphna, and still persists. Medieval references to the care of the insane were simple and salutary, including such advice as playing music to cheer the melancholy.  Above all what honours the Church is that mental disease never became a major problem while the world still lived within the framework which she made.’ Even those who are no friends of the Catholic Church and who promote falsehoods about progress in psychiatry admit that the Church was not involved in the abuses prevalent in Irish mental asylums during the 18th and 19th century as these were run by secular government-run institutions.  A critical and accurate examination of history highlights how adherence to the Catholic Faith established order in society and order in the minds of its faithful.  The Faith gave people what their soul needed.  This is particularly true when comparing our modern psychological theories to the nourishment that was given to men’s minds and souls during the greatest age of the Church: ‘Instead of expanding men’s souls, as every branch of knowledge in the thirteenth century had the power to do, springing as each did from the source of all Truth, our intellectual offerings have contracted men’s minds and shrivelled their souls.  Men have been directed to look, in our day, not out beyond themselves to the Immensity and wonder of God, but in upon the workings of their own minds.  They have been taught a great deal of distasteful nonsense in the name of psychology and sociology, and treated to a number of myths in an unclean practice called psychiatry, first brewed for the world in the impure mind of an Austrian Jew named Freud.’ (Sister Catherine, ‘Our Glorious Popes’).  The Catholic Faith gave man what he needed as the Church knows what man is, i.e. a combined body and soul designed to know, honour and love God.

Following the Evidence:

God has created man. He is therefore man’s beginning. He has created man for Himself. He is therefore man’s final goal.  The proper order of the universe demands that men recognize these two facts and act accordingly.’ –  Frs Farrell & Healy, ‘My Way of Life’

An objective scientific analysis of the claims and practices of psychiatry and psychology in our modern times brings one to the conclusion that they are causing more harm than good.  An objective historical and scientific analysis of the relationship between psychological distress and the Catholic Faith brings one to the conclusion that the Faith is of huge benefit to people’s psychological well-being.  Unlike the pseudoscientific claims of psychiatry and modern psychology, practicing the Catholic Faith can be truly said to be an effective evidence-based approach for psychological distress. This is a recognition of the facts.  However as these are not Catholic times that we live in, it is highly unlikely that these facts will be recognised and acted upon by those who like to promote ‘evidence-based’ approaches to psychological issues.  This is the sad situation we find ourselves in today, i.e. the very thing that would solve psychological issues, the Catholic Faith, has been pushed out of education, health and social policies and practice and any remaining remnants are being rapidly swept out too.  Given this, instead of looking for the government or the health service to help us with psychological issues we must look elsewhere for solutions. No better place to look is the examples of saintly men and women thus inspiring us to bravely carry the crosses life inevitably throws at us.  Hence, the second part of this article on ‘Sanctity and Sanity’ will look at these examples so one can live a holy and peaceful life and, ultimately, an eternally happy one.   

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.