|Devotion to Our Lady||
Everyone is a Shepherd
Since the website was inaccessible for posts during Good Shepherd Sunday, a few words need to be addressed, though late, on the matter of shepherds. Everyone is a shepherd in the loose or broad sense of the word. If St. John Chrysostom can say that every man is a ‘bishop’ of his own diocese (meaning his own soul)—then the same idea can readily and easily be applied to idea of shepherding our own soul and the souls of others.
Easter Joy of the Right Kind!
Easter comes and should bring joy! Yet even though Lent is over and Easter is here—my problems have not disappeared with Lent! Whatever problems we had before the Resurrection of Christ are still with us after the Resurrection of Christ. Health problems, financial problems, work problems, family problems, school problems, parish problems, relationship problems, car problems, house problems, etc. Why couldn’t all those problems have been buried with Christ in the tomb, so that we could find ourselves resurrected to a new, non-problematic life?
Well, the only place where you will find a new, joyful, non-problematic life is Heaven. Here, on Earth, you will never be free of problems—for the problem is a cross and it is through the stressful problem of the cross that you will find the peaceful, non-problematic, joy of Heaven.
If we wish to follow Our Lord to Heaven, we must deal with the problem of the cross. “And Jesus said to all: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me!” (Luke 9:23). “And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me!” (Matthew 10:38). Which is why St. Paul has this to say about the cross: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
The Resurrection of St. Paul
St. Paul could said to have undergone a death and a resurrection―similar to Christ’s―during the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus. After being struck blind and knocked-off his ‘high horse’, St. Paul spent three days in his tomb of blindness—eating and drinking nothing. It was as though he was dead! Then, after the imposition of hands by Ananias, he ‘resurrects’ by receiving his sight and is baptized. Yet, like resurrected Christ who arose with his wounds still visible, the sufferings of St. Paul did not disappear, but, in a sense increased (as we shall see further below). Yet, Paul finds joy in those sufferings.
Looking at Joy
Eastertime is a time of joy, when the Church encourages us to rejoice. To rejoice! When we look at that word and break it down, we see that it is a combination of two things: (1) to show joy, (2) once again. If we simplify or divide the word “rejoice” into more understandable parts, we come up with the prefix “re—“ and word “joy.” The prefix “re—“ means to do something over again or do something once more after a relapse. Hence we have similar examples in the following words: re-think, re-do, re-paint, re-write, re-make, etc.
What is “Rejoicing”?
To “re-joice” means to put aside sadness, sorrow, despondency, discouragement and despair, and take up once again feelings of joy. People are sad and disheartened in poverty, but rejoice if somebody somehow alleviates their poverty, even if it is only for a short time. A nation can be discouraged and depressed in a war, but rejoices in victory, when the war is won, the enemy defeated and peace ensues.
The Example of St. Paul
In like manner, sinful mankind can be sad and sorrowful at sight of its sins; for which it is paying through penance and piteously pleading for pardon and peace; yet the Divine deafness leaves them downcast and discouraged under the domination of devils. All this can be seen united in the person of St. Paul:
(1) He was a great sinner who had persecuted Christians until converted by Our Lord Himself;
(2) He penitentially practiced powerful penances and perseveringly prayed for the rest of his life in order to make amends;
(3) yet God seemed to turn a blind-eye to his penances and deaf-ear to his prayers, as Providence showered him with suffering after suffering. In fact, the Lord had said to Ananias, just after Paul’s conversion: “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). And suffer he did! Here is St. Paul’s partial list, written down by himself, of just a fraction of his sufferings:
“They are Hebrews: so am I. They are Israelites: so am I. They are the seed of Abraham: so am I. They are the ministers of Christ, I am more; in many more labors, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes, save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea. In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren. In labor and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things which are without: my daily instance, the solicitude for all the churches. If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my infirmity” (2 Corinthians 11:22-30).
And now he finds himself in prison, and what does he say? He writes to the Philippians:
“Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety, but in every prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God. And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Philippians 4:4-7).
St. Paul’s Silver-Lined Cloud
This letter of St. Paul to the Christians of Philippi—his first converts in Europe—was written to them from his prison in Rome. When the Philippians, who were very attached to their Apostle, heard of Paul’s imprisonment, they sent one of the community, Epaphroditus, with a sum of money, and with instructions to remain with Paul, to help him in his needs. Epaphroditus became seriously ill in Rome and nearly died; when he recovered Paul sent him back and sent this letter with him to the Christians of Philippi. In it he thanks them and praises them for their generosity and true Christian love, he exhorts them to remain firm in the Faith, despite the present adversity of Paul being in prison. In the four verse extract, read at today’s Mass, St. Paul urges them to “rejoice always.” He repeats it to emphasize how important he thought it: “again I say rejoice.”
The joy St. Paul urges them to practice is the spiritual joy, which comes from the knowledge that, as Christians, they are incorporated by their baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ. Part of the ‘contract’ means having to take up your cross daily and carry it with joy, as did the Apostles, who “went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:41). This was simply the small print of the ‘contract’ that Jesus revealed at the Last Supper, when He said: “Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20).
Can You Spot Christ?
We need our supernatural glasses or contact lenses to see Jesus in our sufferings, but as the old adage goes: “Where there is the cross, there too is Christ!” St. Paul understood this and that is why he can speak so joyfully and courageously of the cross and suffering:
“For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18) ... “That I may live to God: with Christ I am nailed to the cross” (Galatians 2:19) ... “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14) ... “For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come” (Romans 8:18) ... “I Paul...now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh” (Colossians 1:23-24) ..
This attitude of St. Paul is approved and ‘rubber-stamped’ by St. Peter, who writes: “If you partake of the sufferings of Christ, then rejoice, that when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13).
St. Peter and St. Paul fully realize, understand and accept that God’s gifts of grace and His promise of future glory, are sufficient at all times to give us a ready and joyful acceptance of God’s will in adversity as well as in prosperity. St. Paul himself “rejoices” in his imprisonment, because his chains have turned out to be a means of spreading the Gospel, and are, for him, a means to his own salvation as well the salvation of others (1:12-20).
Rejoice—No Matter What
There are many lessons we may learn from these words of St. Paul written from a Roman dungeon to the Christians of Philippi, but the principal lesson and the one the Church wishes to place before us today is the lesson of joy. We must rejoice in the Lord—no matter what. For all that happens to us and around us, is only happening because God either wants it to happen (if it something good and not sinful) or God has allowed it to happen (if the action we suffer happens to be unjust or sinful). In all events, we must remember that nothing can happen without God’s permission. This should give us a similar attitude to suffering to that of St. Paul.
Yet our joy should not only be a result of the crosses that come our way, but let us also stop for a moment to count our blessings and see how many positive reasons we have for rejoicing.
We are alive; we are probably reasonably healthy; reasonably well-off compared to the vast majorty in this world who live in poverty or near poverty; we are human beings who can think, reason and love; we have a body with many talents and gifts, we have a soul which is destined to last forever.
We have been redeemed and been given a chance to attain eternal happiness in Heaven; we have the means of going there and have a guarantee we will get there if we use those means. We are among the minority in this world who have been baptized; we are part of an even greater minority of the baptized who still practice the Faith; we are able to receive our God and Creator in Holy Communion—daily if we wish; we have access to the Sacrament of Confession in the case we fall into mortal sin and lose thereby our chance of going to Heaven.
And while we battle and struggle on the road to Heaven, we are allowed to enjoy many temporal gifts offered us from the generous hand of a loving Father. Have we not reason to rejoice, to be glad? Indeed, can any true Christian be sad? Of course, we meet with snags and setbacks on the road. To reach the summit of the everlasting hills of Heaven we have to climb the rugged foothills that lead to the summit, but a true Christian will not moan and murmur because of that. It is only those who are going nowhere, those who are to remain forever in a lowly painful valley, who meet no obstacles and have no hills to climb. For them there is only the broad, wide road that leads downwards. We have a chance of going to Heaven and so we realize that every obstacle we overcome, every little summit we scale, is bringing us nearer to the lofty peaks where everlasting happiness and the “peace of God” will be our eternal reward together with an unending joy! Rejoice!
The Greatest Deathbed Joy!
What would bring you the most joy on your deathbed? No sane person can say anything other than “Mercy!” Nothing else can really compete with the deep, underlying, hopeful cry for mercy. It is not for nothing that Holy Scripture says “The Lord is sweet to all and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 144:9). So why are most souls lost? They are lost because they failed to do the things that bring those “tender mercies”—the fault does not lay on the side of God, Who wishes that all would be saved--“Who will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4)—but on the side of men who “will not listen to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against His words” (1 Kings 12:15). Our Lord came to give us the joy of mercy and the joy of salvation—yet most people do not want to the pay the price for that joy.
The Joy of Salvation
In one sense, salvation is free—or should it be said “freely given”—because no person, of themselves, can ever merit salvation. The gravity of sin is measured not only by the action that is done, but also by the dignity of the person that is offended or sinned-against. Since God is an infinite Being, with infinite dignity, any and all sin against Him takes on an infinite character and creates an infinite debt. No person is infinite—a mere finite being cannot repair an infinite offense and pay an infinite debt. Hence, the Son of God became man—so that as man He could pay the human debt for sin, and, as infinite God, He could pay the infinite debt. We are merely hanging-on to His ‘coat-tails’ hoping that He drags us into Heaven. It is only because of Christ that we have a chance of obtaining the joy of mercy; it is only because of Him that we have a ‘shot’ at salvation.
Yet where there should be joy, there is sadness! Sadness at the innumerable souls who fail to obtain the joy of mercy and the joy of salvation—a sadness often communicated by Our Lord and Our Lady. “Poor sinners, how blind they are! I want only to forgive them, and they seek only to offend Me. That is My great sorrow; that so many are lost and that they do not all come to Me to be forgiven!” (Our Lord to Sr. Josefa Menendez, Words of Love, Fr. Gottemoller). Our Lady of Good Success also bewails over the “innumerable frivolous souls who will be lost.”
Few Find Joy in This Life, But in The Next!
Everyone seeks joy and happiness—yet the only true happiness to be found can only be in Heaven. Our Lady of Lourdes promised St. Bernadette joy, not in this life, but in the next: “I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next!” The three children at Fatima were not told by Our Lady to go run off and be happy—she said to them: “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners? … Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.” All that suffering would bring the joy of mercy to sinners and to themselves too!
Our Lord similarly told His Apostles at the Last Supper: “Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20) in the life to come, not now—for they had much to suffer and would be martyred for Christ’ Name—something Our Lord had foretold: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for My Name’s sake!” (Matthew 24:9). “And you shall be hated by all men for My name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22). “Lay not up to yourselves treasures on Earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in Heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
If we seek to place our eggs of joy in the basket of this world, we will quickly end up being eternally disappointed and sad! Our joy is to be in Heaven and our joy is meant to be receiving the mercy that will undeservedly open to us the gates of Heaven. Now is the time to labor, suffer, pray and beg in hopeful expectation of the joyful news that God may well be merciful to us!
The Earthly Joy-Seekers Find No Joy in Heaven
Our Lord was categorically clear on the fact that we cannot seek ease and joy on Earth and expect to find the same in Heaven. “No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon!” (Matthew 6:24). Which is why His Apostles say: “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world” (1 John 2:15). “Know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God!” (James 4:4). How can you be joyful knowing that you are an enemy of God’s? Yet many there are in this category, as Our Lord says: “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat!” (Matthew 7:13).
A Picture of False Joy
St. Louis de Montfort, in his Letter to the Friends of the Cross, paints a picture of these two ways—the broad and joyful road to destruction and the narrow and tearful path to the joys of eternal salvation:
“Dear Brethren, these are the two groups that appear before you each day, the followers of Christ and the followers of the world. Our loving Savior’s group is to the right, scaling a narrow path made all the narrower by the world’s corruption. Our kind Master is in the lead, barefooted, thorn-crowned, robed in His blood and weighted with a heavy cross. There is only a handful of people who follow Him, but they are the bravest of the brave. His gentle voice is not heard above the tumult of the world, or men do not have the courage to follow Him in poverty, suffering, humiliation and in the other crosses His servants must bear all the days of their life ...
“To the left is the world’s group, the devil’s in fact, which is far superior in number, and seemingly far more colorful and splendid in array. Fashionable folk are all in a hurry to enlist, the highways are overcrowded, although they are broad and ever broadening with the crowds that flow through in a torrent. These roads are strewn with flowers, bordered with all kinds of amusements and attractions and paved with gold and silver (Matthew 7:13-14) ...
“To the right, the little flock that follows Jesus can speak only of tears, penance, prayer and contempt for worldly things. Sobbing in their grief, they can be heard repeating: “Let us suffer, let us weep, let us fast, let us pray, let us hide, let us humble ourselves, let us be poor, let us mortify ourselves, for he who has not the spirit of Christ, the spirit of the Cross, is none of Christ’s. Those who are Christ’s have crucified their flesh with its concupiscence. We must be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ or else be damned!” Worldlings, on the contrary, rouse one another to persist in their unscrupulous depravity. “Enjoy life, peace and pleasure,” they shout, “Enjoy life, peace and pleasure. Let us eat, let us drink, let us sing, let us dance, let us play. God is good! He did not make us to damn us! God does not forbid us to enjoy ourselves! We shall not be damned for that! Away with scruples! We shall not die!” And so they continue!” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to the Friends of the Cross).
The Joy in Heaven
Truly, as God says--“My thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are My ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts!” (Isaias 55:8-9). What gives Heaven joy is not always what gives us joy! We find penance tough, but Heaven is full of joy when we do penance--“I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance!” (Luke 15:10)—Heaven smiles while we sweat! The Apostles, who were at first afraid of suffering, as we saw during the Passion of Christ, when they all fled, eventually came to appreciate and rejoice in suffering: “And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the Name of Jesus” (Acts 5:41).
Not My Kind of Joy!!!
This kind of joy in suffering is not our way, nor is it our desire—but it is God’s way and it is God’s desire. Why else would Our Lord say “to all: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me!’ (Luke 9:23). “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven! Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake! Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in Heaven!” (Matthew 5:10-12)—for through all this suffering comes the joy of mercy.
Mercy Not a ‘Freebie’ Nor Deserved
Strictly speaking, mercy is not deserved by the sinner—it is earned by Christ. The very notion and definition of mercy is one of pardon being given to someone who does not deserve anything else but punishment out of justice. It is the removal of the hangman’s noose from the neck of one who is being hanged for murder. When do a fair day’s work, we deserve a fair day’s pay. When we sin, we deserve punishment, not mercy. The fact that mercy is shown is something that is “mind-blowing” and unexpected. It is like falling-off a high building and landing in a safety-net or trampoline. What we get is certainly not we expect or deserve. This is what creates the joy or euphoria of being on the receiving end of mercy.
How Much Joy Do You Show?
Sadly, we show little joy at the mercies that we get. How many times have you been to confession? How many sins have you committed in your life? Remember—even Venial Sins are the second greatest evil in this world, second only to the evil of Mortal Sin! Read a book on Hell and a book on Purgatory—how many Hells or how many Purgatorial roastings have we not deserved already in this world for our past Mortal and/or Venial Sins? Have we had that punishment inflicted upon us? Of course not—at least not yet! We are living in a “Time of Mercy” whereby we have a chance to show God some token gesture of sorrow and repentance for our sins by practicing penance and much prayer. Yet, that aside, how much joy have you shown God for the merciful holding-back of His Arm of Justice despite all your sins?
Joy of Being Healed
This brings back to mind the encounter Our Lord had with the Ten Lepers—leprosy being a symbol of sin—where He mercifully cured them, but only one came back to praise and thank Him with joy! “And as Jesus entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off; and lifted up their voice, saying: ‘Jesus! Master! Have mercy on us!’ Whom when He saw, He said: ‘Go! Show yourselves to the priests!’ And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God. And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering, said: ‘Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger!’” (Luke 17:12-18).
Which Gives the Greater Joy?
You would imagine that the more often we have been mercifully forgiven and healed in Confession, then the more we would rejoice and love God! “To whom less is forgiven, he loveth less” (Luke 7:47). How much joy would you show if God were to heal you from a crippling or fatal disease—the answer should be obvious—yet Our Lord says that the forgiveness of sins is greater than the cure of the body: “And behold they brought to Him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed. And Jesus, seeing their Faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: ‘Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee!’ And behold some of the Scribes said within themselves: ‘He blasphemeth!’ And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? Is it easier to say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee” or to say, “Arise, and walk?” But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on Earth to forgive sins’―He then said to the man sick of palsy―‘Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house!’ And he arose, and went into his house” (Matthew 9:2-7).
Reaching Joy Through Sorrow
For everyone—Our Lady included—our path to joy is through the forest of sorrow. Our sins are like the many trees, branches and leaves the hide the splendid and joyful beaming of the sun. As we tread the path, we feel, not the sun but sin. The warmth of the sun is blocked by the coldness and shade of our sins. We must penitentially trudge through the “Forest of Sin”—or “Valley of Tears” is you like—on our way to the mercy of Heaven. It is our Faith, our Hope and our Charity that energizes us and lifts us if we stumble. Our joy is not in the poisonous mushrooms and fruits of the “Forest of Sin”, but, as we say in the prayer, Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, in expectation of reaching, “after this our exile”, the eternal joys of Heaven, one day, by the mercy of God. We beg this “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary”!
From Wishful Thinking and Virtual Reality to Realism
Long ago, Lucretius, the ancient Roman materialist philosopher, said that we should stop believing in life after death, because then we don't have to be afraid of Hell. That's wishful thinking!
Today, the Modernists are trying to foist upon us the idea of Universal Salvation—which means that all souls are saved in the end! That, too, is wishful thinking! Though it is not as widespread a belief as the Modernists had hoped—but with the Catholic becoming ever more dumb and ever more Liberal, the day will come when most will believe that! The funerals in white (and no longer black) are a step in that direction.
The ever increasing notion that we no longer need to go to Confession and that the general confession of sins at the start of Mass suffices for the forgiveness of our sins—is also wishful thinking! Not only is it wishful thinking—it is also dangerous thinking!
The thought that we can have fun in this world, be like the rest of the world, and then simply walk into Heaven, because God is all love and mercy, and no longer a God of justice and punishment—is also wishful thinking!
There are many, many other instances of wishful thinking that are nothing other than a “Virtual Reality” and miles and miles away from “True Reality” and which, if left unchanged, will see the loss of many, many souls—despite the wishful thinking to the contrary.
We Never Really Learn
We have not really learned the lessons given by Christ. He says one thing. We hear something else! We twist what He says in order to hear what we want.
We do not really believe Christ when He tells us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3) and “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:24). It isn't the poor, but the rich, who have the hardest time being happy in this world―as is proved by comparing suicide rates amongst the poor and the rich. The poor believe, not because they are blinded by their poverty, but because they are not blinded by riches.
Illusions and Delusions
Though Illusion and delusion can be thought of as being the same, they actually have different meaning. While illusion concerns a false vision to the eyes, delusion is said to be a false belief in mind. The illusion, by its false appearance, fools the eyes or the vision. The delusion fools the soul, or the thinking mind. The illusion makes things appear differently as to what they are objectively or normally. Whereas the delusion makes error seem to be true. If you delude yourself, you let yourself believe that something is true, even though it is not true.
Illusion can be termed as a misleading perception. You will be seeing something, but the fact is that you see it in a different perspective to what it actually is in reality. The many different types of camera lenses can produce many different illusions when the photograph finally is printed on paper. Illusion means misjudging the size, length, direction, shape and color of objects that are seen. Illusion is something related to the vision that one sees, but misinterprets. Delusion on the other hand is a false belief, that is maintained even if it is pointed-out or contradicted.
In simple words, Illusion can be said to be one that fools the eyes and delusion is something that fools the mind. Though these two are not real, illusion pertains to something exterior seen by the eyes, which is misinterpreted by the mind. Whereas delusion pertains to an interior belief held by the mind.
While illusion can be termed as perceptual disturbance, delusion can be called as belief disturbance. Illusion is something that is caused by outside influence but delusion is caused by one’s feelings. Illusion happens when you are fooled by your vision, but delusion happens when you are fooled by your own mind, because of your false reasoning and false beliefs. While illusion can be termed to be external, delusion can be called as internal.
How We Are Deluded By Ourselves and Others
The truth is that a lot of the time we lack enough information to form an air-tight opinion on a subject matter. From the student who believes he is doing well in a class, only to find out that he got a “C”, to the employee who thinks they are the top performer, only to find that someone else receives the coveted promotion, the reality is that the risk of delusion is a normal part of everyday life.
This is especially true in this modern day, when subjective truth (what I feel or think is true) comes above objective truth (what really is true). This puts many a subjective thinker on collision course with the objective thinkers. From subjective mom (“My little Johnny would never harm a fly, never mind hit another student!”) crossing swords with objective school principal (“Your little Johnny really did give little Mikey a black eye!”), to the subjective Catholic (“God is all love! He would never send anyone in my family to Hell!”) to the objective teaching of the Church (“Hell was created by that loving God and that loving God sends most souls to Hell!”).
It comes down to what was said just above: “The truth is that a lot of the time we lack enough information to form an air-tight opinion on a subject matter.” Our little knowledge gets us into a lot of trouble. Our negligence, laziness and indifference in learning the truth, does not excuse nor dispense us from the consequences of truth.
Some Reasons Behind Our Delusions
From a purely secular perspective, in the introduction of his book You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney says: “You think you know how the world works, but you really don’t.” The author points out that our biased minds twist and stretch truth to create delusions. Many of our memories are fictional and never really happened that way at all; our perceptions of the present are colored by our wishful thinking, likes and prejudices; and our projections of the future are often grossly unrealistic. McRaney identifies the lies that people tell themselves, through researching various scientific studies about bias and combining them with logical fallacies people commonly believe. Here in a nutshell are some of his observations:
● You Aren’t As Smart As You Think ― You’re generally bad at predicting your own competence at different tasks. McRaney says this is why internet commenters are more likely to debate global warming than people with advanced degrees. The less you know, the more you think you know.
● You Aren’t Always Logical ― We are meant to be rational creatures, but we often find ourselves thinking and acting (actions follow thoughts) irrationally. Much of how people behave is because of unconscious cues. We find ourselves making judgments and planning lines of action, not on objective criteria, but on subjective feelings.
● Your Opinions Aren’t Always Based In Fact ― Everyone believes people, that they disagree with, are gullible and everyone thinks they’re less susceptible to persuasion than they actually are.
● You Aren’t Always Honest With Yourself ― People are unaware of the fictional narrative they create to justify actions, such as paying more for something. In one study, psychologists lined up identical nylon stockings and asked participants to pick the highest-quality one. Four to one, participants chose the stocking on the far right side, merely because they were more comfortable with the positioning. Snap decisions based on nothing but instinct or imagination.
● You Sometimes Believe Crazy Theories ― When you can’t explain something, you don’t focus on what you can prove. You’re likely to accept strange explanations. An example is believing an unidentified flying object came from outer space. Laziness in research is a large part of the problem. We want a quick and easy fix, but research is long and laborious.
● You Accept Generalities ― You’re likely to believe vague statements and predictions are true, especially if they are positive and address you personally. McRaney uses the example of people who base their lives on horoscopes.
● You Are Quick To Conform ― All it takes is an authority figure or social pressure to get you to cave. Conformity is a survival instinct we inherited from our ancestors to survive.
● You Don’t Have “Survival Instincts” ― You’re actually more likely to become overly calm in a crisis and try to pretend everything is normal. In 1999, people had a 13-minute warning when tornadoes were ripping through Oklahoma. Yet, the vast majority of the population did not evacuate. Look at the Titanic and the reactions of the crew and passengers immediately after the ship hit the iceberg—most were deluded and thus calm and unworried.
Spiritual Delusions and Illusions
The more dumbed-down we become in matters of Faith, then the more we expose ourselves to the possibility of spiritual delusions and illusions. This is problem of our age—people gullibly run after each and every apparition, without any prudence, discernment or consultation of Church authorities about the likelihood of their veracity or of their fairy-tale possibility. You could another Jonathan Swift book called “Gullibles Travel.”
“Some delude themselves, pretending to reach union with God without having continual recourse to Our Lord … This is particularly true of a secret spiritual pride, which is sometimes the cause of many illusions” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life).
“Some fall into illusion by being too much attached to certain spiritual communications; they expose themselves to the devil, who takes pleasure in deceiving them by false prophecies … To ask for revelations shows also a lack of respect toward Christ, because the fullness of revelation has been given in the Gospel. God sometimes grants these extraordinary favors to weak souls, or again to strong souls that have an exceptional mission to accomplish in the midst of great difficulties; but to desire them is at least a venial sin, even when the soul has a good end in view. All this shows clearly the error of imprudent directors who, impelled by curiosity, are concerned with souls favored by visions and revelations. This curiosity is a deformation of the spirit which casts the soul into illusion and trouble, and turns it away from humility through vain complacency in extraordinary ways … The soul must prudently guard itself against all these communications if it wishes, in purity and without illusions, to reach divine union by the night of Faith” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life).
There is some surprising counsel as regards false apparitions: “Those who are favored with apparitions of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints should render to the persons represented the honors due them, even though the apparition should be the result of an illusion of the imagination or of the devil, for as St. Teresa says: ‘Although a painter may be a wicked man, honor should none the less be paid to a portrait of Christ done by him.’ These apparitions must never be desired or asked of God” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life).
God will deliver the sincere seeker of truth from delusions and illusions. “If anyone lives seriously by the words of Christ, correcting himself, the first Truth will gradually penetrate into his soul and deliver it from that most pernicious of lies, the lie that a person tells himself while cherishing his illusions … Self-love or subtle egoism gradually disappears. The result is that the soul is less subject to illusions, for it lives increasingly by its higher part, into which the enemy cannot penetrate. God alone penetrates the innermost depths of the heart and spirit” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life).
“Father Lallemant says: ‘In religion there is a little world, the component parts of which are the esteem of human talents, of important employments, offices, and positions, the love and search for glory and applause, for rest and a calm life. These are the things the demon uses as a puppet show to amuse and deceive us. He sets it all in motion before our eyes in such a way that we dwell on it and let ourselves be seduced, preferring vain appearances to true and solid goods.
Human talents are indeed often preferred to the great supernatural virtues. Only prayer can protect us from this delusion … Prayer it is that teaches us to judge of things in a holy manner, to look at them in the light of truth, which dissipates their false splendor and their spurious charms … Divine truth is given to the soul to deliver it from the depth of self-love that still so often deludes it” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life).
“False prudence is foolishness and a delusion, as St. Paul often says. Imprudence, or lack of consideration, greatly retards spiritual progress, and often it retards it by trying to hasten it. This is the case with those who skim the road, who wish to reach divine union immediately without passing humbly through the indispensable lower degrees, as if a bird were to try to fly before having wings, or an architect to construct the spires of a church before laying its foundations. For example, these imprudent souls read mystical books too soon and too rapidly, with avidity and in a superficial way, without applying themselves to the serious practice of virtue” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life).
Do Religion and Wine Mix?
It seems as though Religion and too much wine do not mix! In the Old Testament, God makes this abundantly clear. Speaking to Aaron and his priestly tribe, God warns them of drunkenness: “The Lord also said to Aaron: ‘You shall not drink wine, nor anything that may make you drunk … when you enter into the tabernacle!’” (Leviticus 10:8-9).
Also, speaking to Moses concerning those who wish to consecrate themselves to God, we read: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: “When a man, or woman, shall make a vow to be sanctified, and will consecrate themselves to the Lord, they shall abstain from wine, and from everything that may make a man drunk” ’” (Numbers 6:1-3).
The Wine of the World is the Wine of Sodom
Poisoned wine can still taste sweet and that is how the wine of the world tastes. It is not a wine from Heaven, but a wine from Hell—for the devil is, as Our Lord says, “the prince of this world” and he is forever mixing-up his fatal cocktails of sweet wine and damning poison for us. Each one has different tastes in life, and so the devil will make a wine especially for us—to suit our tendencies and attractions. “For our God is not as their gods … Their vines are of the vineyard of Sodom, and of the suburbs of Gomorrha: their grapes are grapes of gall, and their clusters most bitter. Their wine is the gall of dragons, and the venom of asps, which is incurable!” (Deuteronomy 32:31-33). Yet it is amazing how many people rush to get their bottle of infernal wine—much like the soda drinkers of this world, who are sweetly drinking themselves into an early sugary death, without knowing it—or if they know it, they no longer care: the soda is too sweet to turn down.
A TALE OF THREE WOMEN
Holofernes Loses His Head to Judith Through Wine
The account of lustful Holofernes, who lustfully got drunk over Judith and then was beheaded by Judith in his drunken stupor is a sober lesson for a modern world intoxicated with the devil’s cocktail chalice of sex, alcohol and drugs. Holofernes lost both his head and his soul—the same fate awaits the world today.
“And the heart of Holofernes was smitten, for he was burning with the desire of her. And Holofernes said to her: ‘Drink now, and sit down and be merry for thou hast found favor before me!’ And Judith said: ‘I will drink my lord, because my life is magnified this day above all my days!’ And she took and ate and drank before him what her maid had prepared for her. And Holofernes was made merry on her occasion, and drank exceeding much wine, so much as he had never drunk in his life. And they were all overcharged with wine. And Judith was alone in the chamber. But Holofernes lay on his bed, fast asleep, being exceedingly drunk ... Judith went to the pillar that was at his bed’s head, and loosed his sword that hung tied upon it. And when she had drawn it out, she took him by the hair of his head, and she struck twice upon his neck, and cut off his head” (Judith 12:16-20; 13:1-10).
Queen Esther Will Not Drink the 'Poisoned' Wine
We read in the Book of Esther, how, as a Jewish exile in Babylon, she was chosen to be Queen by King Assuerus (Esther chapter 2). Rather than allowing herself to become inebriated with all the luxury and trappings that surrounded her, she later says to God: “Thou knowest that I hate the glory of the wicked, and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised, and of every stranger. Thou knowest my necessity, that I abominate the sign of my pride and glory [her crown], which is upon my head in the days of my public appearance, and detest it as a menstruous rag, and wear it not in the days of my silence; and that I have not eaten at Aman’s table, nor hath the king’s banquet pleased me, and that I have not drunk the wine of the drink offerings; and that thy handmaid hath never rejoiced, since I was brought hither unto this day, but in Thee, O Lord, the God of Abraham” (Esther 14:15-18). Her attitude should be the attitude of every Catholic exiled from Heaven in this modern world—but, sadly, it isn’t.
Pouring In Wine or Pouring Out the Soul?
Today, many week to alleviate their miseries through alcohol or substance abuse—a fatal cure if there ever was one! Let us take leaf out of the book of Anna, the mother of the future prophet Samuel, who, in her miseries, did not pour wine into her mouth, but, with her mouth, poured out her soul to God—the only one Who can alleviate miseries: “And it came to pass, as she multiplied prayers before the Lord, that Heli observed her mouth. Now Anna spoke in her heart, and only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard at all. Heli therefore thought her to be drunk, and said to her: ‘How long wilt thou, be drunk? Digest a little the wine, of which thou hast taken too much!’ Anna answering, said: ‘Not so, my lord! For I am an exceeding unhappy woman, and have drunk neither wine nor any strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. Count not thy handmaid for one of the daughters of Belial: for out of the abundance of my sorrow and grief have I spoken till now!’” (1 Kings 1:12-15).
Dangers of Drinking and Partying
We read in the Book of Job that “There was a man in the land of Hus, whose name was Job, and that man was simple and upright, and fearing God, and avoiding evil. And there were born to him seven sons and three daughters … And his sons went, and made a feast by houses each one in his day. And sending they called their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of their feasting were gone about, Job sent to them, and sanctified them: and rising up early offered holocausts for every one of them. For he said: ‘Lest perhaps my sons have sinned, and have blasphemed God in their hearts!’ …
"Now upon a certain day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, there came a messenger to Job, and said: ‘Thy sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their elder brother: a violent wind came on a sudden from the side of the desert, and shook the four corners of the house, and it fell upon thy children and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell thee!’” (Job chapter 1).
Whether God permitted the devil to do so to the children because of worldliness, or sinfulness, or lack of religiosity, or some other reason, we do not know—but happen it did and it happened while they were drinking and partying, which was something Job was constantly worried about.
The Two Chalices—Joy and Suffering
Our Lord asked James and John: “‘Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of? Or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized? Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?’ They say to Him: ‘We can!’ He said to them: ‘My chalice indeed you shall drink! You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, you shall be baptized.’” (Mark 10:38-39; Mathew 20:22-23).
What is the “chalice of the Lord”? It is the chalice of suffering! At the Last Supper, “taking the chalice, He gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: ‘Drink ye all of this! For this is My blood, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins!’” (Matthew 26:27-28). It was the chalice of His blood that came from His sufferings—a chalice that He Himself struggled to come to terms with, as we see a few hours later in His Agony in the Garden: “And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying, and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt!” (Matthew 26:39).
We instinctively know the chalice that God has prepared for us and we instinctively are repulsed at the thought of it, just as Our Lord was. Yet in that chalice lays our salvation and we have to say, agonizingly with Our Lord: “I will take the chalice of salvation; and I will call upon the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 115:13).
Sweetly Poisoned Chalice or Bitterly Sweet Chalice?
Which chalice shall we drink from? The sweet, but poisoned, wine of the world? Or the bitter, but non-poisoned, chalice of the Lord? The former is sweet for a moment and brings eternal death. The latter is bitter but eventually brings the sweetness of eternal life. The former is cheap and costs us little. The latter is expensive and costs us much!
By wine, we mean not only the wine from grapes, but the ‘wine’ of the world—the materialism, the sensuality, the fun and entertainment, the socializing, etc. As Scripture says, speaking of the Chosen People during the Exodus from Egypt: “Neither become ye idolaters, as some of them, as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play!’” (1 Corinthians 10:7).
Holy Scripture encourages us: “Be not delighted in the paths of the wicked, neither let the way of evil men please thee. Flee from it, pass not by it: go aside, and forsake it. They eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of iniquity” (Proverbs 4:14-17). “Challenge not them that love wine: for wine hath destroyed very many!” (Ecclesiasticus 31:30). “He that is delighted in passing his time over wine, leaveth a reproach” (Proverbs 12:11). “And they have not cried to Me with their heart, but they have thought upon wheat and wine, they are departed from Me!” (Osee 7:14). “Who hath woe? Whose father hath woe? Who hath contentions? Who falls into pits? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? Surely they that pass their time in wine, and study to drink of their cups!” (Proverbs 23:29-30). “Fornication, and wine, and drunkenness take away the understanding” (Osee 4:11). “They drank wine, and praised their gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, and of wood, and of stone” (Daniel 5:4). The worldly drunkards say: “Come, let us take wine, and be filled with drunkenness: and it shall be as today, so also tomorrow, and much more!” (Isaias 56:12).
But God says: “They shall not drink wine with a song: the drink shall be bitter to them that drink it!” (Isaias 24:9). “Awake, ye that are drunk, and weep, and mourn all ye that take delight in drinking sweet wine” (Joel 1:5). “Woe to you that are mighty to drink wine, and stout men at drunkenness” (Isaias 5:22). “I thought in my heart, to withdraw my flesh from wine, that I might turn my mind to wisdom and might avoid folly!” (Ecclesiastes 2:3). “Wine was created from the beginning to make men joyful, and not to make them drunk! Wine drunken with moderation is the joy of the soul and the heart! Wine drunken with excess raiseth quarrels; and wrath, and many ruins! Wine drunken with excess is bitterness of the soul!” (Ecclesiasticus 31:35-39). “Wine and music rejoice the heart, but the love of wisdom is above them both” (Ecclesiasticus 40:20). “He brought me into the cellar of wine, he set in order charity in me” (Canticles 2:4). “In that day there shall be singing to the vineyard of pure wine” (Isaias 27:2).
The True Wine, The Pure Wine, The Pure Vine
“Be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury; but be ye filled with the Holy Spirit!” (Ephesians 5:18). “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). “I am the true vine … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit―for without Me, you can do nothing!” (John 15:1-5). “And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of My Father!” (Matthew 26:29).
Our Lord is our vine and our wine! He changes wine into His blood and gives that special ‘wine’ of His Blood to drink. “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed: and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him” (John 6:54-56). “O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet!” (Psalms 33:9).
Do we rush to the Banquet of the Holy Eucharist to be fed with heavenly ‘food’ and heavenly ‘wine’? Or do we run faster to the worldly banquets, socials and parties that come across our paths? Where is our real treasure? What is preference in drink? Woe to those who neglected to run to the Eucharistic banquet and placed their joys in other banquets!
In the parable of Our Lord about the Great Supper, those who were invited were too busy with persons (wife), places (farm) and things (oxen). They were rejected. “A certain man made a great supper, and invited many. And he sent his servant at the hour of supper to say to them that were invited, that they should come, for now all things are ready. And they began all at once to make excuse. The first said to him: ‘I have bought a farm, and I must needs go out and see it! I pray thee, hold me excused!’ And another said: ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to try them! I pray thee, hold me excused!’ And another said: ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come!’
“And the servant returning, told these things to his lord. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant: ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the feeble, and the blind, and the lame!’ And the servant said: ‘Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room!’ And the Lord said to the servant: ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. But I say unto you, that none of those men that were invited, shall taste of my supper!’” (Luke 14:16-24). Are we among those who too busy drinking the ‘wine’ (pleasures) of the world to come to the heavenly Eucharistic banquet?
The Wine of Punishment
For those who preferred the wine of the world, the wine of Babylon, they will find that the dregs of their ‘sweet’ temporal wine are dregs of eternal bitterness. “Babylon hath been a golden cup, that made all the Earth drunk: the nations have drunk of her wine, and therefore they have staggered” (Jeremias 51:7). “That great Babylon is fallen, is fallen; which made all nations to drink of the wine of her fornication!” (Apocalypse 14:8). “Thus saith the Lord of hosts: ‘Take the cup of wine of this fury at My hand: and thou shalt make all the nations to drink thereof!’” (Jeremias 25:15). “In the hand of the Lord there is a cup of strong wine full of mixture. And He hath poured it out from this to that: but the dregs thereof are not emptied: all the sinners of the Earth shall drink!” (Psalm 74:9). They “also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled with pure wine in the cup of His wrath, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone” (Apocalypse 14:10).
“Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower the glory of his joy, who were on the head of the fat valley, staggering with wine. Behold the Lord is mighty and strong, as a storm of hail: a destroying whirlwind, as the violence of many waters overflowing, and sent forth upon a spacious land. The crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under feet. And the fading flower the glory of his joy, who is on the head of the fat valley, shall be as a hasty fruit before the ripeness of autumn: which when he that seeth it shall behold, as soon as he taketh it in his hand, he will eat it up. In that day the Lord of hosts shall be a crown of glory, and a garland of joy to the residue of His people” (Isaias 28:1-5). “Thou hast shown Thy people hard things; Thou hast made them drink wine of sorrow!” (Psalm 59:5)
Misery Guts Himself
Take back what the devil took from you! The devil has no joy! He cannot stand joy! His future is eternal misery and “misery loves company”—therefore he wants you in Hell of misery with him. To achieve this, He endeavors to remove joy from your life—for He knows that “A joyful mind maketh age flourishing: a sorrowful spirit drieth up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Even on the physical plane, doctors and researchers have found that states of joy and relaxation produce hormonal releases in the body that counter the hormones caused by stress. This is important, especially in light of recent findings by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stating that 90% of doctor visits are stress related. That’s not a typo. 90%. So even on a physical and health related level, it’s vital to our health that we learn how to overcome stress and tap into our soul’s capability of producing joy and peace. One simple way to achieve this combination of health and happiness is the practice of the Faith.
Stress comes from thinking everything is out of control; that God no longer cares or can do anything about it; or imaging that what is happening is against the will of God. Now, of course, sins are against the will of God—but don’t you agree that God could prevent sin if He wanted? Of course He could! But He can also bring good out of evil—which He has been doing from the day of the Original Sin committed by Adam and Eve. He did so by changing St. Paul from a persecutor to a preacher of Christ. He did so in countless other cases in the history of the world. God is not stressed out—He is in total control. We should find and take joy in that knowledge.
Joy In All Things
Therefore, we can and we must try to find joy in all things—“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)―for this nothing else than finding joy in the will of God. It is a tall order—but it is a goal we must set ourselves: “Always rejoice!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Whatever happens to us, or to the world, is either specifically wanted or reluctantly allowed.
God wants good to happen to us, but He allows evils to befall both us and the world, due to sin. Through those perceived ‘evils’ (which are really good things), we are punished and purified. That is why Our Lord says to us those disliked and disappointing words: “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake! Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in Heaven!” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Joy Overcomes The Devil
Joy can overcome the devil, but joy is not a stand-alone thing—it depends upon other things. Joy depends first of all upon Faith—if we do not know about an after-life; if we do not know about God; if we do not know about His Providence; if we do not know about His Mercy; if we do not know about Jesus Christ; if we do not know about His Redemption; if we do not know about the means He left us to save our souls and attain Heaven—then there can be no joy. The more we know our Faith, then the more joy it should give us—unless we have been bitten by the bug of worldliness.
Joy in the Faith
The promises and words of God should leave us joyful—“You shall draw waters with joy out of the Savior’s fountains” (Isaias 12:3). Religiousness shall give joy and gladness” (Ecclesiasticus 1:18). “He that adoreth God with joy, shall be accepted, and his prayer shall approach even to the clouds” (Ecclesiasticus 35:20). “The fear of the Lord is gladness and a crown of joy. The fear of the Lord shall delight the heart, and shall give joy and gladness” (Ecclesiasticus 1:11-12). “The Lord thy God will bless thee in all thy fruits, and in every work of thy hands, and thou shalt be in joy” (Deuteronomy 16:15). But be warned: “If thou give to thy soul her desires, she will make thee a joy to thy enemies” (Ecclesiasticus 18:31).
Joy in Troubles and Tribulations
That true joy of the Faith will even emerge and bring you out of tribulations and troubles: “Thou art my refuge from the trouble which hath encompassed me! My joy―deliver me from them that surround me!” (Psalms 31:7) ... “The Lord of Heaven [will] give thee joy for the trouble thou hast undergone” (Tobias 7:20) … “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy!” (Psalm 125:5). To my hearing Thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice!” (Psalm 50:10) … “And he brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness” (Psalm 104:43) … “And the redeemed of the Lord shall come into Sion with praise; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Isaias 35:10).
At the Last Supper, speaking to His Apostles, Our Lord said that He wanted them to be joyful, but He promised sorrows first, and only then joy: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled … Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy!” (John 16:20; 15:11).
St. Paul writes to the Corinthians in the same spirit, saying: “For although I made you sorrowful by my epistle, I do not repent! And if I did repent―seeing that the same epistle did make you sorrowful (although but for a time)―now I am glad! Not because you were made sorrowful; but because you were made sorrowful unto penance” (2 Corinthians 7:8-9). Wherefore St. Peter adds: “You shall greatly rejoice, if now you must be, for a little time, made sorrowful in divers temptations” (1 Peter 1:6).
False Joys Are Doomed and Damned
The false joys of the wicked will bring eternal misery: “The expectation of the just is joy; but the hope of the wicked shall perish” (Proverbs 10:28) … “The light of the just (i.e. Faith) giveth joy: but the lamp of the wicked (i.e. worldliness) shall be put out” (Proverbs 13:9) … “Go then, and eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with gladness: because thy works please God!” (Ecclesiastes 9:7). “The city of vanity is broken down, every house is shut up, no man cometh in! There shall be a crying for wine in the streets; all mirth is forsaken; the joy of the earth is gone away! Desolation is left in the city, and calamity shall oppress the gates! For it shall be thus in the midst of the Earth, in the midst of the people!” (Isaias 24:10-13).
“Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower the glory of his joy, who were on the head of the fat valley, staggering with wine. Behold the Lord is mighty and strong, as a storm of hail: a destroying whirlwind, as the violence of many waters overflowing, and sent forth upon a spacious land. The crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under feet. And the fading flower the glory of his joy, who is on the head of the fat valley, shall be as a hasty fruit before the ripeness of autumn: which when he that seeth it shall behold, as soon as he taketh it in his hand, he will eat it up. In that day the Lord of hosts shall be a crown of glory, and a garland of joy to the residue of His people” (Isaias 28:1-5).
The Virus of Joy
The joy of the Lord and the joy of the Faith should be effervescent―it should be ‘alive’ and ‘contagious’. If anything should distinguish us from the world it should be the joy of the Faith. When you can go through the same tests, the same trials, and same hardships as the world, and they are, to use street language, trippin’ out, and flippin’ out and freakin’ out, while you're chillin’ out because of the supernatural supply of the joy of God and the Faith, they are going to wish they had what you have.
Joy Attacked By Hell
Some of you will certainly have been through all kinds of difficulties, hardships, trials, and just plain old attacks from Hell! It seems like you get victory in one area, then you're attacked in another area! It feels like you're in a continual warfare, or like you're caught in the spin-cycle in the washer and you can't turn it off. Some of you will have been through all kinds of battles, all kinds of tests, trials, tribulations and storms—with the result that your joy has been under constant attack and perhaps severely wounded. If you are honest about it, you will have to admit that the devil has hit you hard, not just in one area, but in multiple areas, and the truth is it was a good hit—meaning that the devil hit you where it hurts, and you felt it and it stunned you!
The reason is that devil wants to wear you out. Holy Scripture says: “And he shall speak words against the High One, and shall crush the saints of the most High: and he shall think himself able to change times and laws, and they shall be delivered into his hand until a time, and times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25).
Peddling Counterfeit Joys
The devil always seeks to ape or imitate God. Likewise will he seek to produce counterfeit joys for our gullible consumption. These are the elusive and fast-fading joys of this world—through which the devil seeks to derail from the path to true and everlasting joy. Christ says suffer today and have your joy in an eternal tomorrow. The devil says enjoy today and forget about the eternal tomorrow.
The devil sees to it that the pursuit of joy and happiness consumes the attention of the culture in which we live. Billions of dollars are spent every year on counterfeit joys like entertainment, amusement and pleasure, as people seek to fill the absence of God in their hearts with something that will simply distract them for a moment. Hell is a bit like that—the fires of Hell distract a little from the fact that soul has lost God for eternity, which is its biggest pain, while the lesser pain of the fires and other tortures of Hell serve a slight distraction from the ultimate pain.
Vain Joy on Earth
This vain search for joy on Earth is bound to fail miserably—as Our Lord Himself indicates: “Lay not up to yourselves treasures on Earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in Heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also!” (Matthew 6:19-21). He then adds: “No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:19-21)—mammon meaning the treasures and pleasures of this world.
To the rich young man, who wanted to be perfect, his possessions only brought him sadness and sorrow, not joy and happiness: “And behold one came and said to Jesus: ‘Good master! What good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?’ Jesus said to him: ‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments!’ ... The young man saith to Him: ‘All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me?’ Jesus saith to him: ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come follow Me!’ And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:16-24). Which is why St. James writes: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl in your miseries, which shall come upon you!” (James 5:1).
Everyone Wants to Be Rich, But in the Wrong Way!
Riches in themselves are not wrong, but they are very dangerous. Our hearts are so easily turned away from God by the things of this world, that possessing great riches is like have tons of explosives in your basement. You have to be careful. Why do you think God’s Providence made Our Lady and Joseph so poor? Why did Jesus choose a life of relative poverty? Each one of them could and would have used riches more wisely than any other human being—but Providence placed them in relative poverty, and certainly not in an abundance of riches!
Sobering Words of Our Lady on Riches and Possessions
Our Lady, speaking of riches to the Venerable Mary of Agreda, says: “The sons of the world are ignorant precisely because they are lovers of earthly riches and enemies of this holy and opulent poverty. They do not consider, although they feel and suffer, the heavy weight of riches, which pins them to the Earth and drives them into its very bowels to seek gold and silver in great anxiety, sleeplessness, labors and sweat, as if they were not men, but wild beasts that know not what they are suffering and doing. And if they are thus weighed down before acquiring riches, how much more so when these riches have come into their possession?
“Let the countless hosts that have fallen into Hell with their burden of riches, proclaim it; let their incalculable anxieties of preserving their riches, and much more, let the intolerable laws, which both riches and those that possess them, have foisted upon the world, testify what is required to retain them. The soul is never more a mistress than when she despises them, and only then has she the more firm possession and makes the more excellent use of riches, when she gives them away or leaves them of her own free will; only then her appetite for them is best satiated, when she does not care to possess them. Then above all is the heart set free and made capable of the treasures of the Divinity” (Our Lady to the Venerable Mary of Agreda, Thy Mystical City of God).
This simply echoes Our Lord’s own words: “Amen, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 19:23-24). With great riches come great responsibilities! Nobody becomes rich without God--“Without Me, you can do nothing!” (John 15:5)—which is a pain to the ears of most rich people, for they imagine themselves to be “self-made-men” and think that they made themselves rich and so they can do what they want with their riches! God has given them their riches and “And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).
Our Lady, speaking of herself, reveals to the Venerable Mary of Agreda: “When anything was wanting of the necessaries of life I remained in peace and contentedness and deemed it all perfectly reasonable and proper in my regard, since I had merited none of the gifts and could justly be deprived of all of them. Have mortals their intellect? Or what use do they make of their understanding when, at the refusal of things which they desire and of which perhaps they do not even profit, they begin to get sad and lash themselves into fury one against the other, and even against their God, as if they were suffering some injury at his hands? Let them inquire what treasures and riches they did possess before they came into life? What services had they rendered unto God in order to merit them?” (Our Lady, Thy Mystical City of God).
Our Lady concludes: “The temporal goods are created by the Most High for the sale purpose of sustaining life; having attained this end, the need of them ceases. And as this need is limited, soon and easily satisfied, there is no reason that the care for the immortal soul should be only fitful and temporary, while the hunger after riches should be so perpetual and unintermitting, as it has come to be among men. It is the height of perverseness for man to mix up the end and the means, in an affair so important and urgent, that he devotes all his time, all his care, all the exertion of his powers and all the alertness of his mind, to the life of his body, of which he knows not the duration nor the end, and that on the other hand, in many years of his existence, he spares for his poor soul only one hour, and that very often the last and the worst one of his whole life” (Our Lady, Thy Mystical City of God).
"Great possessions thou must renounce as superfluous; thou dost not need them and it is a crime to keep them for no purpose; the little thou standest in need of should also be esteemed but little; for it would be a great error to embarrass the heart with that which is of no account and can hinder it much. If thou hast all that according to thy judgment is necessary for human wants, thou art not in reality poor; for to be poor properly and strictly means to have less than what is necessary. Those, to whom nothing is wanting, call themselves rich. To possess more than is necessary creates unrest and affliction of spirit!" (Our Lady, Thy Mystical City of God).
Seeking and Finding True Joys
The true joys, are for most people, are very unpalatable joys, even disgusting joys. Never in their wildest imagination would they even dare to classify them as joys! Of what joys do we speak. Let Our Lady explain:
"Take notice, my dearest, that my most holy Son and myself are trying to find among those who have arrived at the way of the cross, some soul, whom We can instruct systematically in this divine science and whom We can withdraw from the worldly and diabolical wisdom, in which the sons of Adam, with blind stubbornness, are rejecting the salutary discipline of sufferings. If thou wishest to be our disciple enter into this school, in which alone is taught the doctrine of the cross and the manner of reaching true peace and veritable delights. With this wisdom, the earthly love of sensible pleasures and riches is not compatible; nor the vain ostentation and pomp, which fascinates the blear-eyed worldlings, who are so covetous of passing honors, and so full of ignorant admiration for costly grandeur. Thou, my daughter, choose for thyself the better part of being among the lowly and the forgotten ones of this world. I was Mother of the God-man himself, and, on that account, Mistress of all creation conjointly with my Son: yet I was little known and my Son very much despised by men. If this doctrine were not most valuable and secure, We would not have taught it by word and example" (Our Lady, Thy Mystical City of God).
Who? Me? Thanks, But I'm Alright As I Am!
The attitude of most people is one of “I may not be a saint, but I’m happy as a I am!” Most people have reached the end of the road, as far a spiritual improvement goes, and they have their slippers on and are well-ensconced into their armchair, happy to maintain what they have.
God, in the Book of the Apocalypse, addresses this smugness when He says: “Thou sayest: ‘I am rich and made wealthy, and have need of nothing!’ And knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold fire tried, that thou mayest be made rich; and mayest be clothed in white garments, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear; and anoint thy eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous, therefore, and do penance!” (Apocalypse 3:17-19).
The spiritual life is a road of perpetual conversion, until the day we die. There is a famous axiom of the spiritual life, quoted by many saints and spiritual writers, that says: “There is not standing still in the spiritual life—we are either going forwards or backwards—he who makes not progress, regresses.” This is something that we instinctively dislike. We would prefer to reach a goal and then put up our feet and rest. This can never be so in the spiritual life. It has to be a life of perpetual spiritual motion, always working. How else can you interpret Scriptural quotes like: “Pray without ceasing!” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Prayer was made without ceasing” (Acts 12:5). “We also give thanks to God without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Our Lord Himself says: “We ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). “Let nothing hinder thee from praying always” (Ecclesiasticus 18:22).
No Sitting Down
Praying always is like running without taking a break. Yet this does not mean saying an endless chain of Our Fathers and Hail Marys. Prayer is more than that. Prayer is the raising of the mind and heart to God. We can pray in the usual accustomed way—Rosaries, Acts of Contrition, Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity. Yet there is more to prayer. We pray when we attend Mass—and most people do not attend enough Masses. We pray when read the Bible. We pray when we meditate. We pray when we are doing our spiritual reading. We pray when consider and reflect upon the wondrous creation of God. We pray when we listen to a sermon. We pray when we give spiritual advice or simply talk about spiritual things. By trying to see God in all things, behind all things, controlling all things—we are praying.
Training Takes Time
This should be our goal—but one arrives at goals by stages. We go to school, college, or university and learn by stages. We practice whatever art attracts and pleases us, but we grow better by stages. Athletes improve their fitness and form by stages. The same must be true of the spiritual life—there is no “light switch” that we can flick and instantly be at a level that we desire. The danger and the tragedy is that most people do not take time to train spiritually.
Stages of Spiritual Resurrection
Taken from Soul of Apostolate by Dom Chautard and repeated in Guidance in Spiritual Direction by Fr. Hugo Doyle.
“Every soul is a world by itself. It has its own shades of difference. Still, as an ordinary rule, we may classify Christians in various groups. We have thought fit to attempt such a classification here below, testing souls on one hand by sin and imperfection, and on the other by their degree of prayer. Let us hope that this classification may lead some of our respected confreres to think over the necessity of studying these things, in order to learn the practical rules for directing each soul according to its state.
“In the first two categories, the priest may not be able to work directly upon the souls in question but if he is a good director he will be able to give much more effective guidance to those relatives and friends who have set their hearts on winning back these dear ones, even though they may be hardened in sin, before they are entirely rejected by God.
1. HARDENED IN SIN
● Stubborn persistence in sin, either out of ignorance or because of a maliciously warped conscience.
● Complete acceptance.
● Fails to even recognize and accept them as being sins.
● The soul thinks nothing of imperfections, they are not even on the radar.
● What God would look at being imperfections, the soul thinks them to be virtues!
● Deliberate refusal to have any recourse to God.
2. SURFACE OR SUPERFICIAL CHRISTIANITY
● Considered as a trifling evil, easily forgiven.
● The soul easily gives way and commits mortal sin at every possible occasion or temptation.
● Confession almost without contrition.
● Complete acceptance.
● Fails to even recognize and accept them as being sins.
● The soul thinks nothing of imperfections, they are not even on the radar.
● Many imperfections are even thought to be virtues!
● Mechanical; either inattentive, or always dictated by temporal interest.
● Such souls enter into themselves very rarely and superficially.
3. MEDIOCRE PIETY
● Weak resistance.
● Hardly ever avoids occasions but seriously regrets having sinned, and makes good confessions.
● Complete acceptance of this sin, which is considered as insignificant.
● Hence, tepidity of the will.
● Does nothing whatever to prevent venial sin, or to extirpate it, or to find it out when it is concealed.
● The soul thinks nothing of imperfections, they are not even on the radar.
● Many imperfections are even thought to be virtues!
● From time to time, prays well.
● Momentary fits of fervor.
4. INTERMITTENT PIETY
● Loyal resistance.
● Habitually avoids occasion.
● Deep regrets.
● Does penance to make reparation.
● Sometimes deliberate.
● Puts up a weak fight.
● Sorrow only superficial.
● Makes a particular examination of conscience, but without any method or coherence.
● The soul thinks nothing of imperfections, they are not even on the radar.
● Many imperfections are even thought to be virtues!
● Not firmly resolved to remain faithful to meditation.
● Gives it up as soon as dryness is felt, or as soon as there is business to attend to.
5. SUSTAINED PIETY
● Never. At most very rare, when taken suddenly and violently by surprise.
● And then, often it is to be doubted if the sin is mortal.
● It is followed by ardent compunction and penance.
● Vigilant in avoiding and fighting it.
● Rarely deliberate.
● Keen sorrow, but does little by way of reparation.
● Consistent daily particular examination of conscience, but aiming only at avoidance of venial sin.
● The soul either avoids uncovering them, so as not to have to fight them, or else easily excuses them.
● Approves the thought of renouncing them, and would like to do so, but makes little effort in that direction.
● Always faithful to prayer, no matter what happens. Often affective prayer.
● Alternating consolations and dryness, the latter endured with considerable hardship.
● Never deliberate.
● By surprise, sometimes, or with imperfect advertence.
● Keenly regretted, and serious reparation made.
● Wants nothing to do with them.
● Watches over them, fights them with courage, in order to be more pleasing to God.
● These imperfections are sometimes accepted, however, but regretted at once.
● Frequent acts of renunciation.
● The Daily Particular Examination of Conscience aims at perfection in a given virtue.
● Mental prayer gladly prolonged. Prayer on the affective side, or even prayer of simplicity.
● Alternation between powerful consolations and fierce trials.
7. RELATIVE PERFECTION
● Guards against them energetically and with much love.
● They only happen with half-advertence.
● Habitual life of prayer, even when occupied in external works.
● Thirst for self-renunciation, annihilation, detachment, and divine love.
● Hunger for the Eucharist and for Heaven.
● Graces of infused prayer, of different degree.
● Often passive purification.
8. HEROIC PERFECTION
● Nothing but the first impulse.
● Supernatural graces of contemplation, sometimes accompanied by extraordinary phenomena.
● Pronounced passive purifications.
● Contempt of self to the point of complete self-forgetfulness.
● Prefers suffering to joys.
9. COMPLETE SANCTITY
● Hardly apparent.
● Usually, transforming union. Spiritual marriage.
● Purifications by love.
● Ardent thirst for sufferings and humiliations.
“Few and far between are the souls that belong to the last two, even to the last three categories. Nor is it hard to understand that a priest will wait until he actually comes across such a penitent before making a study of what the best authors have to say, in order that his direction may then be prudent and safe.” (taken from Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Chautard & Guidance in Spiritual Direction by Fr. Hugo Doyle).
THE THREE CONVERSIONS OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
The Beginners in the Purgative Way
Each of these three stages is preceded by a crisis or a painful transition. These are sometimes called “CONVERSIONS” by the spiritual writers. Before one can be a BEGINNER in the spiritual life, one has to convert from the state of not-possessing the grace of God in the soul (for an adult this means being in Mortal Sin, for a new born child it is the state of Original Sin) to a state of possessing the grace of God in the soul.
This FIRST CONVERSION therefore initially takes place in the Sacrament of Baptism, when sanctifying grace is infused into the soul for the first time, and in the Sacrament of Confession where Mortal Sin is removed and grace once again returns to the soul. This can be a real battle-royal for the soul. A battle that is painful and one that costs dearly.
During this FIRST CONVERSION the soul of the Beginner is concerned with THREE chief things: (1) To battle and eradicate Mortal Sin, (2) to do penance for past mortal sins, and (3) to preserve the state of grace in the soul on an habitual basisl. The soul therefore has to PURGE itself (hence the name “Purgative Way”), not only from the present Mortal Sin, but also remedy the past effects of Mortal Sin by doing penance.
It is only by an habitual avoidance of Mortal Sin that a soul can truly lay claim to being a Beginner in the spiritual life. Authors like the Fr. Faber and the 20th century spiritual master, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, are of the opinion that most souls are not even beginners, but are going backwards and forwards between the state of grace and the state of Mortal Sin. As regards lukewarm souls, many others state that they are not truly Beginners, for they have one foot inside the room and the other foot outside, neither in nor out.
Those Making Progress ae in the Illuminative Way
The second level or stage of the spiritual life (the Illuminative Way of those making progress—the Proficients) is where the soul, now habitually free of Mortal Sin, starts to focus on THREE chief things:
(1) the Proficient soul now starts to look for its Venial Sins in order to battle them, uproot them and destroy them,
(2) It starts to pray much, much more than ever before, and
(3) it starts to focus on the systematic (not random or sporadic) acquisition of virtues.
Before the soul acquires these great graces, it has to undergo the SECOND CONVERSION, which has THREE chief areas of combat. These are
(1) the painful endurance of a spiritual dryness despite wanting and trying to draw closer to God,
(2) the battle to overcome all deliberate Venial Sin, which in earlier years didn’t even seem like sin at all! And (3) the pulling away from all the sensible, tangible, non-sinful pleasures and consolations that the soul instinctively still desires.
Many, if not most souls, who enter this level, do not have the fortitude and resolution to do this, and will often make peace with Venial Sin (which will then require a painful Purgatory at the end their life, unless they finally push through this stage). This peace with Venial Sin will quite frequently lead some souls back into Mortal Sin more or less frequently—for as one of the maxims of the spiritual life says: “If we are not making progress, then we will find ourselves going backwards.”
Those Reaching Perfection are in the Unitive Way
The third level or stage of the spiritual life (the Unitive Way of the Perfect) is one has to be preceded by a third trial or THIRD CONVERSION, which now hones or perfects the soul even more.
The first conversion centered around the elimination of all Mortal Sin; the second conversion focused on the elimination of all Venial Sin; this third conversion has as its target the elimination of all imperfections—which are all thoughts, words and actions that are not sinful in any way, but could be more perfectly done. In short, it means trying to always do the most perfect thing, to take the most perfect option or solution.
This can be an excruciating crucible of suffering. To add to the trial, at this stage or level, God often pulls away from the soul—much more than in the second conversion, where the pulling away only meant a kind of dryness being experienced. In this third stage, the soul has the impression that it has been completely abandoned by God, so much so that it feels an unworthiness so great that it feels it will be damned. You can read of this in the lives of many of the saints.
It is the final test for the soul, whereby God purifies it of all self-interest and self-love, and examines the soul to see if it seeks God for His own sake, or if it was only seeking it for consolations and self-interest. As the saying goes: “Do you seek the consolations of God, or do you seek the God of consolations?”
That, in brief, is a sketch of the road map to Heaven! But who the hell wants it? Very few do! That is why most do end up in Hell, whereas God wants everyone in Heaven.
Where's My Piece of the Cake?
Whoever was in charge of dishing out Heaven’s joys, must have been either sleeping on the job, or he was just biased. Such might be the feeling of most folk—they want to be happy, but they are living with anxiety and searching for joy!
Each day they look in the mailbox, and there are always a few letters from Anxiety, but never, or rarely, a letter from Joy! It’s not that we are gluttons for joy—a little joy goes a long way—but to be on a starvation diet from joy is a bit much at times, we say to ourselves. We feel as though we have been shortchanged by joy!
The Grass on the Other Side of the Fence
As the proverb says: "The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence!" We look around and imagine that everyone has a bigger slice from the cake of joy than we have. Even one of the Psalms speaks of this—a modern English version is a little more readable in this regard, but the Douay-Rheims version will follow it—read whichever you prefer:
I Envied the Worldly Ones
MODERN ENGLISH: “As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to Heaven, and their tongues take possession of the Earth. Therefore people turn to them and drink up their waters in abundance. This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
“Have I in vain kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence? All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply, until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely You place them on slippery ground! You cast them down to ruin! How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes! When You arise, Lord, You will despise them as fantasies.
"When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You. Yet I am always with You! You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me into glory. Whom have I in Heaven but You? And Earth has nothing I desire besides You! My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from You will perish! You destroy all who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds.” (Psalm 72).
DOUAY-RHEIMS ENGLISH: “My feet were almost moved; my steps had well nigh slipped. Because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the prosperity of sinners. For there is no regard to their death, nor is there strength in their stripes. They are not in the labor of men: neither shall they be scourged like other men. Therefore pride hath held them fast: they are covered with their iniquity and their wickedness. They have passed into the affection of the heart. They have thought and spoken wickedness. They have set their mouth against Heaven: and their tongue hath passed through the Earth.
“And I said: ‘Then have I in vain justified my heart, and washed my hands among the innocent?’ And I have been scourged all the day; and my chastisement hath been in the mornings!’ I studied that I might know this thing, it is a labor in my sight: until I go into the sanctuary of God, and understand concerning their last ends. When they were lifted up, Thou hast cast them down. How are they brought to desolation? They have suddenly ceased to be: they have perished by reason of their iniquity. As the dream of them that awake, O Lord; so in Thy city Thou shalt bring their image to nothing.
“Thou hast held me by my right hand; and by thy will Thou hast conducted me, and with thy glory Thou hast received me. For what have I in Heaven? And besides Thee what do I desire upon Earth? For Thee my flesh and my heart hath fainted away! Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever! For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish! Thou hast destroyed all them that are disloyal to Thee. But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God: that I may declare all Thy praises.” (Psalm 72).
Does God Want Anxiety?
Well, bluntly, yes and no! God wanted Our Lord to be anxious, fearful, even petrified—at least for a while—in His Agony in the Garden: “He began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. Then He saith to them: ‘My soul is sorrowful even unto death!’” (Matthew 26:37-38).
Yet Our Lord tells us: “I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on … Which of you by taking thought [being anxious], can add to his stature by one cubit? … Be not solicitous therefore, saying: ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’, or ‘Wherewith shall we be clothed?’ For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:25-34).
God is a good loving Father, who only seeks our welfare and good. Sometimes, of course, that may mean punishing us, or putting us through adversity and hard times. Yet His love should never be doubted nor despaired of—provided that we are sincerely trying to follow the paths He wants us to follow.
Signposts Remove Anxiety
When we are driving to a new destination, never before visited, we are calmed down by seeing frequent signposts that mention the name of the city we are traveling to—for it means we are on the right road. Imagine what a difference it would make, to your life, if you saw all around you signposts pointing to the presence of God. Not only would nature and human beings proclaim the glory of God, but even in the ordinary happenings, from hour to hour and from day to day, you would welcome God’s will. You would be drawn at once to show gratitude for the pleasant things that happened, knowing that God had provided them, and the unpleasant ones you would accept with joy as part of your share in the Passion. So it would mean that you could live out your life under what St. Augustine described as the canopy or firmament of God’s will.
Sanctity Removes Stress and Worry
Sanctity does just that. First it glorifies God, from whom all sanctity comes. And second it discovers more and more material with which to express this glory and praise of God. Where the ordinary “Sunday-Mass-and-nothing-more” kind of Catholic sees the service of God as a tiresome duty to be accomplished somehow, the saint sees the service of God as a marvelous opportunity for glorifying God.
To the “Sunday-Mass-and-nothing-more” kind of Catholic, there seem to be few signs of God’s love in a world of confusion, stress and unfairness; to the other there are signs of His love on every side, even in confusion and disappointment. To the one there are just people, nice ones and nasty ones; to the other there are souls, all of them somehow lovable and all of them reflecting the love of God. To the one there are earthly needs and trials to worry about; to the other there is nothing to worry about, because earthly needs and trials are handed over to God. The one dreads lots of things as evil; the other dreads only one evil—sin.
Hope in God Removes Anxiety
Hope, here, is to be thought of not only as looking forward to Heaven, which will be granted us, if we do our part in this life; but, more especially, as having confidence in the power of God to straighten out our muddled, broken, paralyzed lives, even now while we are still living. We see so many examples of hope in the New Testament, where the sick, the blind, the paralyzed come to Jesus hoping to be helped and healed. Do you think Jesus does not like helping and healing? Do you think He doesn’t want to help and heal you?
Far from it! He commands us to come to Him in the hope of help: “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you!” (Matthew 11:28). We need to exercise that hope that looks to God’s Providence from day to day.
You Are Good Anxious Company!
Don't be overly worried if you are worried! Anxiety is a form of purification and examination that God allows to befall us, just as He allowed it befall His only-begotten Son. God also allowed anxiety to grip St. Joseph, when he was at a loss what to think of the Blessed Virgin Mary's pregnancy. Both Mary and Joseph were anxious when they lost the Child Jesus for three days. The Apostles were anxious and afraid during the storm on the lake—crying out: "Lord! Save us! We perish!" They were likewise filled with anxiety and fear during the Passion of Christ—which is why they fled. Many a Christian martyr was anxious before martyrdom. No doubt many of the Christian soldiers and sailors at the Battle of Lepanto would have anxious.
The Test of Anxiety
So anxiety, as you see, is a part and parcel of life. It is a test of our confidence in God, our hope in God, our faith in God. No doubt the Israelites were anxious during the Exodus from Egypt—yet God fed them for forty years in the desert. Can you imagine the vast amounts of manna that would be required to feed anywhere from 3 to 5 million people daily for forty years—yet the Good Lord did that, even when the Israelites rebelled against His will. “And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land: with this meat were they fed, until they reached the borders of the land of Chanaan” (Exodus 16:35).
Many times in their military history the Israelites were outnumbered in battle and anxious about their fate, yet God brought them victory. You will find many similar passages to the following in Holy Scripture, that prove this: “It shall not be you that shall fight, but only stand with confidence, and you shall see the help of the Lord over you, O Juda, and Jerusalem: fear ye not, nor be you dismayed: tomorrow you shall go out against them, and the Lord will be with you!” (2 Paralipomenon 20:17). Which explains the confident words of St Paul: “If God be for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).
We know, of course, that many of Our Lord's followers were struck with fear and anxiety during His Passion and Death, but that anxiety is carried over to the aftermath of His resurrection. The women go anxiously to the tomb, worrying about how on in the world they would be able roll away the stone that barred their entry to the tomb―but God provided. Then we have the two disciples walking to Emmaus, full of sorrow and anxiety about the future, which had promised so much and now seemingly lay in tatters with death of Jesus―again God provides and Jesus appears to them to console, encourage and bring them joy.
We must have a great faith, hope and confidence in God―which is what delights Him and gives Him joy! This great faith, hope and confidence in God will override the anxieties that will never fail to besiege our minds and hearts. The greater the trust in God, the more He will do for us. If we primarily and initially place trust in ourselves, then God will leave us to ourselves―with disastrous results. By trusting in God first and foremost, we will find joy surfacing out of our anxieties, as we find consolation in knowing we are walking along the path that God has traced for us, despite any adverse circumstances we may encounter on that path to Heaven.
Are Not Joy and Sorrow Mutually Exclusive?
In the previous article, it was said that happiness and holiness go together, that they must co-exist. In this article we will look at joys and sorrows. It would seem that joy and sorrow cannot co-exist. Is it not true that you are either joyful or sorrowful, but not both? How can you be joyful if you are sorrowful and how can you be sorrowful if you are joyful?
Well, the answer is “Yes” and “No”—which means that distinctions have to be made. Before we do that, let us look to see if we can find something else that has opposites co-existing in the same being or place. We need look no further that God Himself—Who reconciles in Himself what we might like to think are “opposites”.
Mercy and Justice
For one, God is said to be “perfect Mercy” and also “perfect Justice”—or, if you like, “extreme Mercy” and “extreme Justice”—for something that is perfect is EXTREME in its quality, it is EXTREMELY good. Now, “justice” is giving someone his due—whether it be a reward or a punishment. Whereas “mercy” is something that is not due, but is given to someone who has not merited it. Therefore, justice and mercy are seeming opposites, yet they are both found in a perfect degree, or an extreme degree, in God.
Pain and Joy
Coming away from God and Heaven, we shall now enter Purgatory. There we see souls suffering in extreme, indescribable, horrendous pain. Pain means sorrow! Yet, the saints and mystics tell us that these horribly suffering souls are also in a state of indescribable joy! This pain and joy, again, seem to be contradictories or total opposites.
St. Catherine of Genoa, in her Treatise on Purgatory, writes: “I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the hindrance to His entrance is consumed … But, on the other hand, they endure a pain so extreme that no tongue can be found to tell it, nor could the mind understand its least pang if God by special grace did not show so much ... It is true that love for God―which fills the soul to overflowing―that gives it a happiness beyond what can be told, but this happiness takes not one pang from the pain of the souls in Purgatory.”
We turn, now, back to God in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ after His Resurrection. God can do anything—even raise from the dead! So why on Earth does Christ rise in the glory of His resurrection with his wounds and scars still present on His glorious and perfect Body? If we see someone who is visibly scarred, then we no longer call them “beautiful”! Christ could have rid Himself of His wounds and scars without paying a dollar or a cent—just by wishing it. People today spends thousands of dollars to get rid of, not only scars, but any lesser blemishes they may have on their body or skin! Christ chooses to keep His.
Wounds and Scars are Gross!
In his discussion of Christ’s resurrection, St. Thomas Aquinas asks in his Summa Theologiae (IIIa, q. 54, art. 4) whether Christ’s body should have risen with its scars. As always in the Summa Theologica, Aquinas begins with objections, the best objections that can be mustered against his own position.
The first objection deals with how wounds signify corruption and defect. In more modern language, perhaps one could say that the wounds are gross. Isn’t the idea of someone coming to life after death, while bearing the wounds of his death, something from a horror film? Wouldn’t Jesus be more likely to say “Someone is going to pay for this!” than “Peace be with you”?
Aquinas’ second objection also is a matter of the “gross factor”―wounds destroy our bodily integrity. The body just isn’t whole if there are gaping slashes in it. There’s something wrong, and it’s disgusting.
The third objection runs likes this. It might be permissible to retain some sign of the crucifixion to confirm the faith of the disciples that He, Who was once put to death on a cross, now lives. But, why in the world would He continue to look like that? Since Christ’s body, immediately after the resurrection, is how that body is forever afterwards, it’s not fitting for Him to rise with the scars from the crucifixion. The resurrection is forever―so let’s think about the long-term appearance of the body, particularly in what is to be the most glorified body of all bodies. It wouldn’t be right to look that way.
Scar Surgery with Thomas
Now, Aquinas knows that Christ did rise with wounds, for Holy Scripture reports this and Christ says to St. Thomas: “Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into My side” (John 20:27). This was part of God’s providence, and so know that there was a fittingness to the wounds remaining, by God’s design. Aquinas’ arguments of fittingness are arguments of beauty, and, perhaps, there’s nothing quite like the beauty of his answers for the glory of the risen Lord.
The First Incision or First Wound
In the body of the article, Aquinas gives his first answer as the first of five reasons that he takes from the Venerable St. Bede. He says that Christ rose with His wounds for His own glory. It’s not that Christ couldn’t heal His own wounds, but that He wanted “to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” This idea of a trophy of victory is like someone who has survived a fight, but who bears a scar from a fight that he won. Rather than being some sort of embarrassment, the scar is something that he shows off to his friends. He gets “street cred.” Jesus, you could say, has this “street cred.” The Lord is able to show off—to have glory—for his victory over the fight against death itself.
The Second Incision or Second Wound
As for the second reason, taken again from St. Bede, Aquinas says the glorious wounds confirm the disciples’ hearts for Faith in the resurrection. Whereas the first reason was only for Christ’s own glory, this second reason is precisely for the Faith of the disciples. The risen Lord comes to show Himself to His disciples, allowing them to see that He is indeed the same one who was crucified for their sake. He’s the same person, and now He asks for belief or Faith in His resurrection. Those glorious wounds also help us, who do not physically see the risen Lord, but believe without seeing. They confirm the faith in our hearts as well.
The Third Incision or Third Wound
Aquinas’ third reason, also from St. Bede, states that when Christ “pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death He endured for us.” The Letter to the Hebrews says of Christ: “He is able also to save for ever them that come to God by Him; always living to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25). Imagine Christ in the praying position, showing His Father the wounds from His crucifixion. Christ died once for all, and He will forever show His Father the marks of His obedience unto death for our salvation.
The Fourth Incision or Fourth Wound
St. Bede’s fourth reason switches from the third reason’s manifestation of the wounds to the Father, to the showing of the wounds to sinners: “that He may convince those redeemed in His blood, how mercifully they have been helped, as he exposes before them the traces of the same death.” This corresponds to the mercy of God, which is the highest of His works: “The Lord is gracious and merciful: patient and plenteous in mercy. The Lord is sweet to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 144:8-9). Christ manifests the mercy of God to sinners and shows that He has paid the price for mercy, and guarantees it to all who wish to enter into the payment-plan.
The Fifth Incision or Fifth Wound
The fifth reason is again seen from the perspective of sinners, but now on Judgment Day to those who rejected the divine mercy. Following upon Bede, Aquinas says that the risen Lord’s scars make manifest how the Lord will rebuke the condemned by their just condemnation to the fires of Hell. Aquinas also quotes words from a Pseudo-Augustine source that offer a heart-wrenching interpretation of what the wounded Christ on Judgment Day will say to the condemned: “Behold the Man whom you crucified; see the wounds you inflicted; recognize the side you pierced; since it was opened by you and for you, yet you would not enter!”
We know from Scripture that He will indeed expose those wounds to all. We read at the beginning of the Book of the Apocalypse: “Behold, He cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him. And all the tribes of the Earth shall bewail themselves because of Him. Even so. Amen” (Apocalypse 1:7). He is the lamb standing “that seemed to have been slain” (Apocalypse 5:6). That Jesus will be seen as the victorious slain one, will be a source of utter pain for the condemned, and the source of exuberant praise of the redeemed.
The Beauty of the Scars
In answering the three initial objections, Aquinas focuses on the comeliness of those glorious scars that will remain forever. His argument of fittingness, particularly in this consideration of Christ’s body, has a remarkable attraction where we meditate on the glorious wounds as trophies of power.
In fact, Aquinas states that, far from detracting anything from the beauty of Christ, the glorious wounds perfect His body. By answering these objections, Aquinas leads us to meditate with him on the perfect beauty of Christ’s body being raised from the dead together with His glorious wounds. There is an unexpected divine beauty coming from the ugliness of what human sin has done to the Lord. This beauty will last forever and ever, something for ceaseless contemplation in Heaven.
How to Recognize Christ
St. Thomas Aquinas is only one of many saints on Earth who have contemplated the meaning of Christ’s glorious wounds. Another which deserves special mention comes from the life of St. Martin of Tours.
The fourth-century monastic bishop received an apparition. It seemed as if Christ, clothed in royal robes, was appearing to him. Martin heard the words: “Acknowledge, Martin, Who it is that you behold! I am Christ! And being just about to descend to Earth, I wished first to manifest myself to thee.” But Martin kept silence. Then he heard again: “Martin, why do you hesitate to believe, when you see? I am Christ!”
Finally, Martin realized what was really happening, and he replied: “The Lord Jesus did not predict that he would come clothed in royal purple, and with a glittering crown upon His head. I will not believe that Christ has come, unless He appears with that appearance and form in which He suffered, and openly displaying the marks of His wounds upon the cross.”
At that, the devil was exposed and vanished like smoke, leaving a terrible stench. As the more famous story earlier from his life reports, Martin, while still a catechumen, had clothed the naked Christ. Martin came to know Christ through a bodily way marked by humility. What we find in this lesser known later story is Martin’s firm conviction that Christ always has wounds. If he doesn’t, that’s not Christ. It’s the devil.
Sharing the Scars
Now, if the cross of Christ has this effect upon his glorified body, what does this say about our humanity? Most certainly, we affirm that Christ’s humanity is our humanity. The reason for the Word to be made flesh, suffer, die, and rise was to have our humanity experience the transformation into the glory that he had with the Father before the world began. You could say that Christ’s glorious wounds are our wounds. He took our humanity to himself in the Incarnation. It is our humanity that suffered, died, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. Christ’s humanity is completely ours.
Yet, we could ask about its significance beyond the identification of Christ’s humanity as belonging, in a very real sense, to us. Could others rise with glorious wounds in the pattern of Christ’s paschal mystery? Wouldn’t this show how Christ’s resurrection is the principle of the general resurrection? Isn’t this an realization of what St. Paul says: “He will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory” (Philippians 4:21)?
The Badge of Honor
St. Thomas suggests as much in his very consideration of Christ’s glorious wounds. Within his first answer, after citing the Venerable Bede, he quotes Augustine’s City of God: “Perhaps, in that kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.”
We may be used to something of this idea through the symbolism of religious art. The Apostle Bartholomew holds out his flayed skin. The virgin Lucy offers her eyes on a platter. The Dominican priest Peter Martyr has blood dripping from his pierced head. But perhaps, these depictions are more than simply identifications to help the viewers understand who is being portrayed. Perhaps, these testify to a reality where the martyrs will, like Our Lord, possess a great bodily dignity, a distinctive beauty in the resurrection, because of their particular suffering unto death. That was Augustine’s speculation, a meditation continued by Aquinas, about the martyrs.
As for the resurrection of all the saints, medieval scholastics loved to speak of the endowments of, or the rewards given to the glorified body, based upon the characteristics of Christ’s own body: subtilitas, agilitas, impassibilitas, and claritas — meaning, a spiritualized body, a body that can travel anywhere instantly, a body that no longer suffers anything, and a body free from any deformity and filled with beauty and radiance.
Unfortunately, the quality of the general resurrection of the saints is irrelevant to many theologians today. As a result, Heaven has become even more difficult to imagine. However, what if, taking a cue from the scholastic theologians, yet asking a new question, all the saints in Heaven were to show forth in bodily form their personal configurations to Christ’s cross? Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Since there is no resurrection without the cross, it would be fitting that all would somehow display their unique cross in experiencing the fullness of Christ’s resurrection in the glory of Heaven. What would that look like?
Joyfully Scarred Sister
Here’s one example of the Dominican sister Josephine Bakhita, who bore 144 scars through her life due to the cruelty of one of several masters whom she endured in her youth. When she was sold again and brought to Italy, she came to know another master―a paron in the Venetian dialect, which means “master”, “lord” or “owner”.
She heard that there is a paron above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that He had created her—that He actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme Paron, before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had Himself accepted the destiny of being flogged, and now He was waiting for her “at the right hand of the Father” in Heaven.
Josephine Bakhita was later baptized, and became a religious Sister, who modeled forgiveness and love of enemies. When people would express their pity for her, she would say that it is her enemies who should be pitied, as they didn’t know Jesus.
Imagine Josephine Bakhita in the happiness of Heaven, the fulfillment of her hope, now with her glorified wounds and scars. She shows these glorious wounds to Jesus, as a triumph of victory with Him, in forgiving sinners. She shows these glorious wounds to the other saints, as a particular badge of co-membership with them in the body of Christ, who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation.
The glorified souls of all the saints will be manifest through their glorified bodies. The indescribable joy of the soul from the beatific vision spills over into the body, radiant in joy. This contrasts with the pain of this present life on Earth. So much of suffering in union with Christ’s suffering is hidden, as the spiritual reality of the soul is itself so hidden, so obscured, by the heaviness that weighs us down as we go through the “valley of tears”.
Perhaps, the internal, secret victory over sin, won by God’s grace during this time of trial and temptation, will be made manifest in a way that will allow the marks of our particular cross to shine out in radiance. Already, during this life on Earth, God’s grace pours over the soul’s wounds in its conformity to Christ’s cross.
In Heaven, God’s glory will make the body a visible sign of the interior victory achieved on Earth. Imagine how saints, who have suffered wrongs patiently, will be shining with marks of patience that have been made radiant in Heaven’s light. Imagine how saints, who have won the victory over lust, will be beautiful in the purity that allows them to see God with eyes of extraordinary love. Imagine how saints, who have humbled themselves, will be wonderfully great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Their own conformity to Christ’s paschal mystery will be seen, seen in bodily form.
No Shame in Heaven
A recovering alcoholic, who was once told about this idea that all the saints will have their crosses made known in luminous glory. He replied with some dejection: “Will I have a beer can tied around my neck?” That we don’t know! But we do know that the saints in Heaven have no shame.
The sufferings that they underwent on Earth were precisely the way that they are conformed, by God’s grace, to Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. These sufferings, in their various forms which are often so secret, so ingrained in our very being during this life, are participations in Christ’s own Cross.
St. Paul says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). This is our boast during this life, and it will be the boast of all in Heaven. It will not be disgusting, but all beautiful.
The Price of Joy is Sorrow
Pay day comes after a work day. Graduation comes after laborious studies. A child is born after labor pains have been endured. All of these things involve sorrow and joy. Our Lord even says the same to His Apostles at the Last Supper, that they must find joy by going through sorrow: “Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20).
There is no Heaven without the Cross. The Passion and Death of Our Lord are married to His Resurrection. We cannot separate or divide them. No cross, no crown. No thorns, no throne. No gall, no glory. The joy of the Resurrection is inextricably linked to the sorrows of the Passion. Did not Our Lord say this, after His Resurrection, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26).
Therefore, in meditating upon our own participation in the fullness of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, we can catch a glimpse at how our struggles in grace are not in vain. Our conformity to Christ’s cross now, will allow us to later share the victory of the risen Lord―marked forever by the scars of the redemption He won for us. By thinking this way, Heaven becomes even more real for us who know, all too painfully, the reality of the battle we are fighting upon this Earth. Since we are invited, with the Apostle Thomas, to probe, in Faith, Christ’s wounds, we can come to believe that the glorious wounds are not only Christ’s, but ours as well.
Mixing Joy with Sorrow
Hopefully, by now, we have realized that while we live in this “valley of tears” we can never find true and lasting happiness, nor everlasting joy. This “valley of tears”—the name alone should tell us—is not everlasting joy, nor even everlasting sorrow, but a roller-coaster ride of joy and sorrow.
We should be living joyfully in the hope of mercy and Heaven, while sorrowing over our past sins and the offenses thrown at God by the majority of mankind. Our joy at being in a state of grace, should be tempered by our compunction. Compunction is defined as “an abiding sorrow for sin”—therefore, an everlasting (not temporary) sorrow at having offended God.
St. Peter the Apostle was a prime example of this, as it is said that he never stopped ‘weeping’—that is to say, sorrowing—over his denial of Our Lord during the Passion. Yet Peter was not a sad man—he was joyful, while retaining that abiding sorrow for sin. Our Lord epitomizes that attitude by rising from the dead with the wounds and scars still in place—for eternity—as a reminder of what our sins did to Him and the price He had to pay to redeem us from those sins. That is a recipe of both joy (at being redeemed) and sorrow (at the trouble we caused Him).
Partially Joyful and Partially Sorrowful
There can be no true happiness outside of God. Yet, in this world, we cannot truly or entirely see nor possess God—that will only be possible in Heaven. Therefore, in this world we can only be partially happy or joyful, in proportion to how much we know, love and serve God. The missing amount of happiness is filled by temporary sorrow, until death removes the barrier that keeps us from Heaven (or Purgatory).
Now that Lent is over, everyone wants to be happy! For most, that happiness, or pretended happiness, will be found in food, drink, entertainment, and other such pleasures of life. Very few will be happy at having (hopefully, if Lent was good) paid a decent portion of their debt for past sins.
Everyone wants to be happy and find joy—the sinner and the saint. Everyone instinctively seeks happiness and joy—God has built that into our human nature.
Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart, the spirit, the center of the self.
The way to pleasure is power and prudence. The way to happiness is moral goodness. The way to joy is sanctity, loving God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself.
Everyone wants pleasure. More deeply, everyone wants happiness. Most deeply, everyone wants joy.
Saints and Idiots Seek Joy
The famous psychologist and idiot, Sigmund Freud, claimed that spiritual joy is a substitute for physical pleasure. People become saints out of sexual frustrations. This is exactly the opposite of the truth. St. Thomas Aquinas says the opposite—and he was no idiot--“No man can live without joy. That is why one deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures.” Sanctity is never a substitute for sexual pleasure, but sexual pleasure―whether it be pleasure in thought, word, or deed―is often a substitute for sanctity.
Aquinas’ Guide to Joy for Complete Idiots
St. Thomas Aquinas is uncompromising in his view that our true happiness can only be found in knowledge of God. No other worldly good or pleasure can truly provide us with the ultimate good we seek. As he argues in the Summa Theologica:
“It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is that perfect good which ENTIRELY SATISFIES one’s desire―otherwise it would not be the ultimate happiness or joy, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will (i.e., of man’s desire), is what is universally good; just as the object of the intellect is what is universally true. Hence it is evident that nothing can satisfy man’s will, except what is universally good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone, because every creature has only participated goodness [in the goodness of God]. Therefore, God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of the Psalms (102:5): ‘Who alone satisfies your desire with good things.” Therefore, God alone constitutes man’s happiness’ (Summa Theologica, Part 2. Q.1. Article 8).
Thus, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, we must make a sharp distinction between enjoyment (or pleasure) and happiness. Enjoyment pertains to worldly goods and physical pleasures: but these tend to be very short-lived. And even if all of our worldly desires were satisfied—even if we were to experience every possible enjoyment—we would remain unhappy, since we would still have a nagging feeling that something is missing.
Today Aquinas would point to the experience of many rich people and celebrities as evidence for this truth. Despite having every worldly good—fine foods, cars, houses, vacations, friends, family—many of them remain deeply unhappy, even spiraling into the misery of drugs and suicide.
St. Thomas Aquinas would explain this as follows: when every enjoyment is felt, the soul begins to crave for something more than mere enjoyment. But if one has no knowledge of this “something more” or doesn’t know how to go about finding it, the enjoyment turns to pain and suffering.
This also explains why we see a lot of billionaires suddenly change towards the middle or end of their lives: that nagging feeling, that there is something more, results in charitable work or an orientation to a higher purpose in life.
Happiness and Holiness
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking: “I’m not happy, so I can’t be holy!” or “I’m not holy, so I am not happy!” Both are stupid statements, getting you nowhere. It is only sham saints who are forever wondering how holy they are; the real ones forget about themselves in their desire to please God. In the same way, it is only people who are not incredibly happy who question their happiness.
As St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine say—we cannot find total happiness or be totally happy in this world, for we are lacking the beatific vision of God, since we are not in Heaven and not in His presence—“face to face”, so to speak. We are communicating with God by other means—like a spiritual telephone, spiritual letters, spiritual e-mail, etc.
Even Holy Communion still leaves God hidden, as though behind a veil, or the appearances of bread and wine. How could a person be totally happy communicating with his or her family through these means? So do not start evaluating your holiness or happiness by a false unit of measurement!
Happiness in the Will of God
There can be no happiness outside the will of God. We cannot go against the will of God and be happy—neither God, nor our conscience, will permit that. Our pretended happiness will be tainted by the blotch of going against God’s will, like a piece of clothing that has suffered a small rip or tear, which gradually becomes bigger and bigger. Or hole in the sole of the shoe, that grows ever bigger and lets more and more water into the shoe, causing increasing discomfort.
Have you ever noticed how the holiest people you have come across always seem to be the happiest? They may not laughing and smiling all the time, or telling jokes incessantly and back-slapping and tickling, but they are serenely happy. They are doing the will of God, living in the will of God and content in doing so.
There was nobody happier than Our Lord and Our Lady—and nobody holier too—but the theologians argue that Our Lord never laughed, because laughter is a sign of delightful surprise at something—but nothing ever surprised Our Lord and He knew all the punch-lines of all the jokes, before you could even get to them!!
You would think that enclosed nuns in their Carmelite convents, with no possessions and no pleasures such as movies and parties, might be lonely and sad. But not at all: they are among the happiest people on Earth.
Then on the other side of it, you would think that men and women who have lots of money and lovely houses would be proclaiming their happiness all day long. But it does not work out like this. The lonely ones are men with two or three wives (“which ought to be company enough,” you would have said) and the women who are so busy running after pleasure that they are never alone.
It is a known fact that the people who kill themselves are mostly the rich and the worldly, not the poor and the religious. Does not this prove something? Well, it points to a lot of things, but chiefly it seems to show that filling your life with enjoyment only empties your life of happiness, and that collecting more and more money or possessions or power simply does not work.
Abundance Does Not Guarantee Happiness
After what Our Lord has said, this is only to be expected. “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). “Your treasure is in Heaven where the rust does not consume and thieves do not break through and steal” (Matthew 6:20). “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). “The peace, which I give, is not the peace which the world gives, for My peace no man can take from you” (John 14:27; John 16:22).
Remember the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), the parable of the rich man, who tried to store up his goods in bigger and bigger barns (Luke 12:16-21), and the occasion of the Widow’s Mite.
Happy Rich Men End Up Unhappy
“There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in Hell. And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: and he cried and said: ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame!’ And Abraham said to him: ‘Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazareth evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented!” (Luke 16:19-25). What happiness—apart from temporary pleasures—did those riches bring the rich man?
This makes us think of the Our Lord’s words at the Last Supper, which relate to certain degree to the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Speaking to His Apostles, Our Lord foretells their future: “Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy!” (John 16:20).
The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus also dovetails with the actual real-life encounter Our Lord had with a rich young man:
“And behold a certain man running up and kneeling before Him: ‘Good Master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?’ And Jesus said to him: ‘Thou knowest the commandments—keep the commandments!’ The young man said to Jesus: ‘All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me?’ And Jesus looking on him, loved him, and said to him: ‘One thing is wanting unto thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me!’ And when the young man had heard this word, being struck sad at that saying, went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
“Then Jesus, looking round about, said to His disciples: ‘Amen, I say to you: How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the Kingdom of God! And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven!’ And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus again answering, said to them: ‘Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the Kingdom of God!’ And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered very much, saying: ‘Who then can be saved?’ And Jesus looking on them, said to them: ‘With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible!’” (Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27). No doubt the rich young man took great pleasure in his many possessions, but we see that it resulted in eventual sadness at the words of Jesus. He did not want to do the will of God, and, consequently found no joy, but went away sad and sorrowful.
“The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits. And he thought within himself, saying: ‘What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?’ And he said: ‘This will I do! I will pull down my barns, and will build greater; and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods. And I will say to my soul: “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years take thy rest; eat, drink, make good cheer!”’ But God said to him: ‘Thou fool! This night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?’ So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God” (Luke 12:16-21). What do we learn about seeking happiness from that parable of Our Lord’s?
Jesus Points Something Out
“And Jesus sitting over against the treasury, beheld how the people cast money into the treasury, and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. And calling His disciples together, He said to them: ‘Amen I say to you, this poor widow hath cast in more than all they who have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want cast in all she had, even her whole living!’” (Mark 12:41-44). Remember the incident of the rich young man, who was called to be a disciple, but who turned away, because he could not bring himself to part from his wealth (Mark 10:17-22).
Remember that Our Lord promised that those who carried their burdens willingly, with Him and as though they were His, would find the weight light; the hard yoke of service would turn into something sweet. “Come to Me, all you who are heavy laden,” He invited. He would ease matters for these hard-pressed souls, and they would find rest for their souls and peace (Matthew 11:28-30).
The strange thing is that worldly people, quite sinful people, read these words of Our Lord and do not deny them. They know in their hearts that what He said was perfectly true. They admit the uselessness of luxury when it comes to the question of happiness, and they know that hardship cannot on its own make people miserable. But they cannot bring themselves to put the Gospel teaching into practice. They are afraid to let go of their pleasures, and they are afraid of the Cross. Sanctity would be their one solution, but they do not want to think about what might be expected of them if they went all out for it.
Greek, Chinese and Indian Happiness
If even worldly people can understand the worthlessness of a happiness that rests on pleasure and possessions, you may be sure that philosophers agree about it, too. The wise men, though pagans, of China, India, and Greece all told the same story: do not put your trust in what can only be toys and passing amusements. The Greeks — Socrates and Plato especially — made a science of this particular point, and it might be a good thing to take a look at what they decided about it. (If it bores you, skip it; the rest of this article is not going to be about the Greeks and their idea of happiness, so you will not be missing much if you do) .
The philosophers of ancient civilization―before the coming of Our Lord―explained how human beings could not help chasing after their own happiness. They said that man could arrive at happiness only if the good he was looking for was a real one. Man can never be happy, they said, in the enjoyment of a good that pretends to be a good, but is not one really. They also laid down the observation that every being seeks its own proper perfection. The cabbage works at being the perfect cabbage; the growing caterpillar strains to become the perfect caterpillar so that it can become the perfect moth; the baby is all the time moving onwards into youth, and the young are doing their best to model themselves according to a pattern they have set up for themselves as perfection.
Happy Only If Holy
Now we can leave the Greeks and can again bring in St. Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor of the Church who said that our human happiness “lies in the perfection of our highest faculties.” This gets us one stage further, showing us that happiness and holiness go together. The highest faculties can find perfection only in the highest good — namely, God. So the highest happiness of man lies in drawing near to the perfect holiness of God. Now, from the point of view of this book, which is all about our sanctification, the important thing here is that God pours out His holiness to those who make His honor and glory their highest happiness.
So if we really mean to place our happiness in doing God’s will, we cannot fail to grow in holiness. The argument goes around and around in what might be called a virtuous circle: we want happiness (see the philosophers), we look for it in God (see the saints), we set our highest faculties to work (see the theologians), we do God’s will (see the saints again), and when we do this as well as we can, we become holy. And what about becoming happy, too! Yes, but happiness is a by-product. “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things” happiness among them — “will be added to you.”
Look at the life of St. Francis of Assisi, and see how his story bears out the cycle (the various stages of the argument that come around to the beginning). He hungered for God, lived for God alone, made God’s will his one aim, and at the end of his life — although blind, in pain, poor, and with his work apparently coming to nothing― proclaimed his overwhelming happiness. He knew the theory, and proved it. What’s our theory? What are we trying to prove?
A Season of Joy
Easter is essentially a season of joy, but it is a joy that comes at the price of suffering. We pass from one Holy Week to another Holy Week. From the Holy Week of Passiontide to the ‘Holy Week’ that follows Easter Sunday. The joy of the risen Christ, first of all cost Christ His life. If we want our pay-packet, we must first do the work that we are being paid for: “For the laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7). To the two disciples, who were saddened at the death of Christ as they walked along the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to them and said: “O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Jesus had earlier said: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life, shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose it, shall preserve it!” (Luke 17:33).
If we want to follow Jesus into the joys of Heaven, we must first labor with Him under the pains of this life: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me!” (Luke 9:23). “And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me!” (Matthew 10:38). Our Lady implies the same thing, when she says to St. Bernadette at Lourdes: “I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next!” This recalls Our Lord’s own words at the Last Supper, before He embarked upon His own painful road to joy: “Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy!” (John 16:20).
The Wrong Joy and the Right Joy
We can have a joy that leads us to Hell, or a joy that leads us to Heaven. The sinner will find temporary joy in his sins, which will eventually lead him to the pains of Purgatory, or even Hell. The saint will take pains to find joy in pain, which will eventually lead him to the joys of Heaven.
Neither is the joy of Easter a joy over the fact that we no longer have to fast from food and abstain from meat! We are not meant to go back to what we once were when Lent began. We are meant to be at a higher level and to remain at that higher level. Otherwise we have the senseless situation of the two factories, where one factory takes stones and grinds them into powder and then ships the powder to the other factory. The other factory takes the powder and makes it into stones and ships it back to the first factory, which then makes it into powder again, etc.
The Joy of a New Life, Not Going Back to the Old One
The Church present to us the following words of St. Paul during the Easter Season: “Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the Earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened. For Christ our Pasch is sacrificed. Therefore let us feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
Worth the Pain for the Joy
There are some lines of work that are immensely arduous, painful and burdensome—but which pay well. There are men and women, throughout the entire world, suffering under the toil of their work with joy—because it pays well. What better pay-packet can you imagine than ETERNAL joy, peace, bliss and love in Heaven? Eternity is not just a million years, nor a billion years, nor a zillion years or whatever number you want to make up! All these numbers merely constitute a drop of water in relation to all the water the Earth contains. Is it not worth the labor?
Learning Joy From Mary
The Mother of God is truly the “Virgin most sorrowful”, yet she is also the “Cause of our Joy.” Her many sorrows culminated in the most bitter of them all, beholding the passion and death of Her Son. Excepting only the Man of Sorrows Himself, never has anyone been plunged into the torrent of sorrow as was the Holy Virgin. And one her greatest joys was seeing that dead Son rise from the dead!
Strengthened by the virtue of fortitude and the gift of fortitude, however, Mary was not morose or gloomy. She remained strong. Moreover, she is fittingly called in song and prose the “happy Virgin,” or the “joyful Virgin,” and the “blessed Virgin” ― “blessed,” beata in Latin, means “happy, prosperous, fortunate”: concepts closely allied with joy.
Being immaculately conceived, and further possessed of a super-plenitude of spiritual gifts truly rendering Her “All Holy” (as our Byzantine Catholics call her), Mary has a more just claim on the emotion of joy than any other sheer creature.
What is joy? It is an act of the will delighting in the possession of a loved good. It is a rational version of the sensible appetite called “delight.” Whereas diverse bodily goods and pleasures give us delight, just as they do for brute animals, joy is a delight unique to rational creatures. Its opposite is sorrow, a passion undergone in the presence of an evil we hate.
We sinners delight in all sorts of base things, even when we try to be good. St. Thomas notes that our lower natures can take delight in things that our reason rejects. This is indeliberate, and is part of that war St. Paul speaks of in such graphic terms: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would” (Galatians 5:17). But so many times, we take delight ― and even joy ― in foolish things, things that ought, rather, to make us weep. Mary’s joys, by contrast, were all righteous.
Having no concupiscence, Mary lacked the disorder we all experience. And if joy is “delighting in the possession of a loved good,” consider for a moment what might occasion Our Lady’s joy, even before her glorious Assumption: possessing Sanctifying Grace in an eminent degree; possessing the Gifts of the Holy Ghost operating at their highest degree; possessing the infused and acquired virtues exercised in an heroic degree; the visible presence of the Incarnate Word, whom she conceived in Her mind before conceiving in Her womb (says St. Augustine); the affection from of her Virgin Spouse, St. Joseph; and other manifold favors bestowed upon her by the Trinity ― each Person of whom she stood in special intimate relation, as Daughter, Mother, Spouse. All these would have given her tremendous, inexpressible joys.
Thou Shalt Be Joyful!
Truly could She tell Saint Elizabeth, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47)! In this, as in so many things, Our Lady stands as our model. We may not realize this fact, but what we are considering here actually entails a sacred obligation of our Faith, for Holy Scripture admonishes us in manifold ways to rejoice. Often this is stated as a direct command:
● “For the rest, brethren, rejoice, be perfect, take exhortation, be of one mind, have peace; and the God of peace and of love shall be with you!” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
● “As to the rest, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord!” (Philippians 3:1).
● “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
● “Always rejoice” (1Thessalonians 6:16)
● “But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13).
● “And these things we write to you, that you may rejoice, and your joy may be full!” (1 John 1:4).
The Joys of Mary
How perfectly Mary fulfilled these evangelical admonitions! According to St. Thomas, joy is an act, not a virtue, so we are not talking about something that endures constantly. Each joy of Mary, then, was a discreet event, a distinct act. How many joys did she have?
Originally, there were five joys of the Virgin. Later, that number increased to seven, nine, and even fifteen in medieval literature, although seven remained the commonest number. Here are the Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin, as honored in the Franciscan Crown (or “Seraphic Rosary”):
4. Adoration of the Magi
5. Finding Jesus in the Temple
7. Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin
It is the burning charity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that fructifies in the act of joy. But in this veil of tears, joy is not a perpetual state―we will find joys scattered among our sorrows. St. Thomas says that only in Heaven is our joy full; here, it is unavoidably interrupted by sorrow, for evils both physical and moral befall us and our loved ones in the world. The sublime thing about Mary’s sorrows is that they, too, come from her charity. Again, turning to St. Thomas, we read:
“Joy and sorrow proceed from love, but in contrary ways. For joy is caused by love, through the presence of the thing loved, or because the proper good of the thing loved exists and endures in it; and the latter is the case chiefly in the love of benevolence [wishing well], whereby a man rejoices in the well-being of his friend, though he be absent. On the other hand sorrow arises from love, either through the absence of the thing loved, or because the loved object to which we wish well, is deprived of its good or afflicted with some evil” (Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, q. 28, art. 1).
Acts of joy and sorrow both proceed from love. Mary’s joys and sorrows were perfect, because they came from the unalloyed supernatural charity of the Immaculate Heart. At the foot of the Cross, the charity of the Co-Redemptrix brought forth many acts of sorrow from the Immaculate Heart. But charity “rejoiceth with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6); therefore, knowing that the salvation of the world was being accomplished, the Holy Virgin rejoiced there as well ― yes, even there!
Her joy, like her love and her sorrow, was not sentimental; it was grounded in truth and virtue. So she could say, far more than St. Paul: “I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the Church” (Colossians 1:24).
“And of his fullness we all have received, and grace for grace,” said St. John (1:16). The sacred humanity of Christ is the abundant fountainhead from which the waters of grace flow down to us, His mystical members. In an applied sense, we can say these words of the Virgin, too, for she is the Mediatrix of that deluge of grace. And how sweet it is to drink of the torrent of her joys. For this reason, she is rightly called by Holy Mother Church, Causa Nostrae Laetitiae, the “Cause of Our Joy.”
O Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia!