Category Archives: Joy

No one will take your joy from you. -Jn 16:22


-cf Br. Philip Nolan, OP

“Joy is not the primary goal of the Christian life; rather it is one of the results or “fruits” of that life. Because we cannot fake true joy, the Christian life does not consist of a forced smile and the platitude that “everything will be alright.” This false or forced joy will ultimately let us down. True joy must somehow coexist with the actual circumstances of our lives…

…But our awareness of God’s gaze on us is much more fickle than His love. As St. John Cassian says:

“To cling to God unceasingly and to remain inseparably united to Him in contemplation is . . . impossible for the person who is enclosed in perishable flesh. But we ought to know where we should fix our mind’s attention. . . . And when our mind has been able to seize it, it should rejoice, and when it is distracted from it, it should mourn and sigh, realizing that it has fallen away from the highest good” (Conferences, 1.XIII.1).”

If our attention to God can so easily be distracted, how is it possible to receive this joy that no one, no circumstance or trial, can take away? The answer lies in the source of joy. Joy comes from love. As St. Thomas says, “joy is caused by love, either through the presence of the thing loved, or because one’s proper good exists and endures in the thing loved” (Summa theologiae II-II, a. 28, q. 1). …the impermanence of our attention to God will be dwarfed by the permanence of God’s gaze upon us.”

Love & His joy,
Matthew

True joy

Joy is the arousal of some sense of good. When we malign and obscure good, we malign and obscure joy. St. Gregory the Great tells us, for example, that (a false) joy may result from another’s misfortune (CCC 2539). The unrighteous presence of envy, in this case, corrupts true joy.

There’s a better means of obtaining the joy that comes from the Spirit, and a study of the life of St. Philip Neri reveals this.

After his ordination to the priesthood, Philip had become tremendously popular in Rome, which caused some to treat him with disdain and spread gossip about his intentions. They accused him of pride, unholy ambition, and having a vice for attention, and sought to have him removed from all activity he was involved in. Some sent for the attention of the vicar general of Rome, who questioned, then rebuked and threatened Neri with prison, before ordering him to cease all his activities.

How did Neri receive this clear and undeserved abuse? With cheer!

He informed his accusers that he was not interested in a popularity contest, but worked each day for the glory of God, and promised to remain obedient to whatever wish his superiors would have for him. Feeling patronized, the vicar general grew even more angered dismissed Philip from his house.

In private, though, Neri was greatly troubled by these accusations, for what he loved and cherished had been taken away from him. Yet he still treated his enemies with kindness until they were overcome with love for him by his mighty and courageous charity.

Each of his oppressors regained confidence in Philip with full remorse. Neri was able to resume his activities, attracting even more to his following in Rome.

Neri understood that truly joyful character is steadfast and unwavering when tested.

True joy works together with the other fruits of the spirit, especially faithfulness, patience, and self-control. A true sense of joy is pure as gold, and everyone reacts well to gold which is why, eventually, his accusers praised him for his purity.

There is more from the life and words of Neri that clarifies his true sense of joy and how we can put that to use in serving others.

The day before his death was the Feast of Corpus Christi, and Philip offered Mass in the afternoon after hearing confessions for most of the day. He seemed so fit that day that his friend and physician, Angelo Vittorio, remarked that he could live another ten years (he was seventy-nine). That night, after having retired to his quarters at the normal time, he ate his usual sparing meal and went to rest.

But, as he revealed to Nero, who was one of his closest companions, he had been given supernatural knowledge that he would pass on the Feast of Corpus Christi just as St. Gonzaga, and, desiring no extra attention, wanted to prove to those present that he was in a correct state of mind. So he asked one of those present was time it was. It was three hours after sunset. Three hours,” he replied. “If you add two onto that, it makes five, if you add three, it makes six. Off to bed with you!” Even at nearly eighty, knowing he was living his last night, our saint kept his sense of humor and used it to deflect attention from himself.

Saint Philip Neri was a man of abiding joy and solemn humor. He cracked funnies when things didn’t seem to be so funny. Who makes joked about the time of night just before dying? Even when others were held in a state of fear and anxiety, his antidote was cheer:

To a sick priest: “Be of good cheer, you will recover from this present illness.”

To one close to death: “Be of good cheer, you will most certainly not die of this illness.”

To a woman filled with terror: “Be cheerful, you have nothing to fear, believe me.”

His words should fill us up with saintly cheer, his stories should make us laugh, and his life should make us contemplate the mysteries of the devout life. In his own words:

“Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and helps us to persevere. The true way to advance in holy virtues, is to advance in a holy cheerfulness. The cheerful are much easier to guide in the spiritual life than the melancholy. A servant of God ought always to be in good spirits. Charity and cheerfulness, or charity and humility, should be our motto.”

Love, & the Joy only He can give,
Matthew

May 15 – St Dymphna, 7th century, depression & the saints

(n.b. in the 2004 Martyrologium Romanum, St Dymphna’s feast day was moved to May 30.)

Dymphna was the only child of a pagan king who is believed to have ruled a section of Ireland in the 7th century. She was the very picture of her attractive young Christian mother.

When the queen died at a very young age, the royal widower’s heart remained beyond reach of comfort. His moody silences pushed him on the verge of mental collapse. His courtiers suggested he consider a second marriage. The king agreed on condition that his new bride should look exactly like his former one.

His envoys went far a field in search of the woman he desired. The quest proved fruitless. Then one of them had a brilliant idea: Why shouldn’t the king marry his daughter, the living likeness of her mother?

Repelled at first, the king then agreed. He broached the topic to his daughter. Dymphna, appalled, stood firm as a rock. “Definitely not.” By the advice of St. Gerebern, her confessor, she eventually fled from home to avoid the danger of her refusal.

A group of four set out across the sea – Father Gerebern, Dymphna, the court jester and his wife. On landing at Antwerp, on the coast of Belgium, they looked around for a residence. In the little village of Gheel, they settled near a shrine dedicated to St. Martin of Tours.

Then spies from her native land arrived in Gheel and paid their inn fees with coins similar to those Dymphna had often handed to the innkeeper. Unaware that the men were spies, he innocently revealed to them where she lived.

The king came at once to Gheel for the final, tragic encounter. Despite his inner fury, he managed to control his anger. Again he coaxed, pleased, made glowing promises of money and prestige. When this approach failed, he tried threats and insults; but these too left Dymphna unmoved. She would rather die than break the vow of virginity she had made with her confessor’s approval.

In his fury, the king ordered his men to kill Father Gerebern and Dymphna. They killed the priest but could not harm the young princess.

The king then leaped from his seat and with his own weapon cut off his daughter’s head. Dymphna fell at his feet. Thus Dymphna, barely aged fifteen, died. Her name appears in the Roman Martyrology, together with St. Gerebern’s on May 15.

In the town of Gheel, in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, great honor is paid to St. Dymphna, whose body is preserved in a silver reliquary in the church which bears her name. Gheel has long been known as a place of pilgrimage for persons seeking relief of nervous or emotional distresses. In our century, the name of St. Dymphna as the heavenly intercessor for such benefits is increasingly venerated in America.


-“The Beheading of St Dymphna”, by Godfried Maes, 1688, oil on canvas, Height: 337 cm (132.7 in). Width: 225.5 cm (88.8 in), Saint Dymphna Church, Geel, Belgium


-from an article by Michael J. Lichens, a convert from Evangelical Protestantism to Roman Catholicism, featured in the Catholic Gentleman

The Catholic Church has dealt with mental illness for quite some time. Long before our modern system of mental health, the hospital at Geel, Belgium was established under the patronage of Saint Dymphna, the patron saint of those suffering from mental illness. A good seven centuries before psychiatrists opened offices, the good nuns in Geel introduced a system to take care of the mentally ill, and some of these patients even found healing through treatment and prayer.

As a convert, this information was quite helpful. While my Evangelical church denied mental illness and only told me to pray against it, I found that medieval nuns had the foresight to start treating those tortured by the mind. Our Catholic Church is still learning, and she offers many great resources.

Some of our finest saints, such as Venerable Francis Mary Paul Libermann and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, suffered great bouts of depression. While they would be struck to the heart with grief, they still found comfort in their faith. Ven Francis Libermann once wrote,

“I never cross a bridge without the thought of throwing myself over the parapet, to put an end to these afflictions. But the sight of my Jesus sustains me and gives me patience.”

The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote moving words about his afflictions in the “Terrible Sonnets,” and was especially heartbroken by what seemed like the silence of God in the face of his suffering. One cannot read his poetry and not be moved to compassion for him.

I bring these figures up to show that you are not abnormal; you have intercessors in heaven and on Earth who do know that the mind has many mountains and cliffs. Perhaps it is not always enough, but I know that the loneliness can be the worst part of depression. Knowing that I am indeed among friends in my suffering has been enough for me to keep going and to find hope.

MEDITATE ON CHRIST, ASK HIS SAINTS FOR HELP

I find great comfort in the Incarnation. We as Catholics believe in a God whose love for us is so powerful that he took on our lowly nature in order to redeem it. Christ didn’t become human just to teach us some new lessons; He shows us a whole new way to be human and, ultimately, how to share in His divinity.

In my darkest moments, when I truly was giving in to despair, I found that saying the Jesus Prayer and meditating on the Nativity of Our Lord was enough to let me go on another day and pursue help. In those moments, knowing that Christ was and is among us enabled me to find just enough light and comfort to believe that life was sweeter than death.

Prayer is very hard when you are depressed. I, for one, have nagging doubts when I go through my black dog days. God seems silent and I wonder where He is and what He’s doing. All the same, I do pray, and peace eventually comes. In one case, it took me two years of praying, but peace did come. Mother Teresa’s dark night of the soul lasted several years, but she endured. You can find strength in the same faith.

If you are praying and meditating and the words do not come, then sit in silence. Find an icon or an adoration chapel and utter the words, “You are God, I am not. Please help.” If nothing else, your mind will slow down and will shift its focus to God, who sustains all life and is the source of our strength.

I know this is hard, and sometimes you will want to give up. If you can do nothing else, try to take comfort in knowing that Christ didn’t die and rise again just to leave you alone. Find the saints who did suffer from grief and depression and ask them for help. They, more than any other, are eager to come to your aid.

SEEK TO TURN YOUR MIND TO THE GOOD

My MDD is a lifetime condition that is not likely to be cured except by a miracle. While there may be some forces contributing to your depression that are beyond your control, such as growing up in a troubled home or experiencing a difficult period of your life, there are other things that you can control, and it can be helpful to focus on them.

It’s perfectly normal to want to find an outlet for your depression. In my own and my family history, that has included a cocktail of food, sex and booze. I don’t need to tell you why those are bad ideas.

Instead of harmful behavior, seek to find constructive outlets for depression. I know that a walk can be helpful, and exercise has a profound effect on your mood. It not only takes your mind off of things outside of your control, but it elevates your mood and gives you something to work towards. I personally love reading and writing. Perhaps you have a passion and your depression has made you lose interest in it. But I assure you, you will find the fire of passion coming back if you work at it for even an hour. Even if you do something as simple as clean your house or, if your depression quite sever, get up and dress yourself well, it’s a small accomplishment you can take pride in.

As you probably know, your situation has the ability to give you understanding and greater empathy. Reach out to folks to talk about it, especially if they seem to be going through similar frustrations. You will relieve loneliness, a great problem of our isolated age, and also help to build a support network for you and others.

The point of all my suggestions is to not let your grief and depression rule over all your life but to find the small things you can control and do good with them. Believe me, it’s much harder than I’m making it sound, but it can be done.

To go back to prayer, I do firmly believe that offering up your sufferings for the conversion of the world and the souls in purgatory can do great things. You are turning your mind to charity, and doing so will teach your heart to love people in the midst of grief. Christ will use your prayers and tears to bring more souls to Him.

SEEK HELP, IF YOU NEED IT

While mental illness has a stigma in our society, there is no shame in seeking help. Not everyone needs medicine or therapy, but it is there for those who do. In many cases, your priest is not unfamiliar with mental illness and can be a great help. Not all priests can give you full counseling, but they can be men who you can talk to and pray with and who can offer resources for further help. Likewise, I have met many fine nuns whose wisdom has helped through many trials, and there are few weapons as powerful as a nun’s intercession.

In all things, your victory is in perseverance. As I said above, I often can’t even leave my house on particularly bad days and I have no doubt some of you are right there with me. But if we can claim small victories like seeking help and taking steps to finding comfort, then we are on the path to a greater victory.

Finally, let’s pray to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the Joy of all Who Sorrow. Ask her to help you and all who are plagued by grief and depression.

Love & Heaven’s Joy!!!! BEAR YOUR CROSSES!!!! Lk 9:23-24 It is HIS will!! And we do not need to know why, in this life! His will be done!!! PRAY!!! How else will you survive anything??
Matthew

Cheerfulness cultivates Joy – The Hidden Power of Kindness

Cheerfulness is a very great help in fostering the virtue of charity. Cheerfulness itself is a virtue. Therefore, it is a habit that can and should be acquired.

Cheerfulness is perhaps best represented in the word affability. St. Thomas Aquinas places affability under the general heading of the cardinal virtue of justice, the virtue that prompts us to give to others what is their due under any sense of duty or obligation. You are obliged to help and not hinder others around you in the world on their way toward Heaven. Not only are you to help the needy by your alms, and the erring by your advice, but you are also to help all whom you know or meet by your kindliness, pleasant­ness, and affability of manner.

Cheerfulness of attitude and manner is a great help to those who come into contact with you. If you are a sour, unsociable, gloomy-looking person, you will make people feel uneasy, and you will in­tensify your own temptations to give way to sadness. On the other hand, if you are cheerful, you will lift the spirits of people, invite their confidence, and increase their hope of serving God well.

If you consistently present a gloomy attitude toward life and everybody around you, it may be because you are suffering from a case of self-pity. You let your sorrows and misfortunes overwhelm you. Or you may be prompted by envy to refuse even an effort at being cheerful because you are thinking of the many good things others have that you are denied. Or you may be a victim of your feelings. Temperamentally you may be inclined toward sadness, and you take the position that you should let your temperament rule you.

Avoid false cheerfulness

You are not really cheerful when you lack seriousness when it is time to be serious, so that you cannot give serious attention to the important duties of life. It is dangerous and misguided cheerfulness to make light of your serious sins, to avoid all thoughts of judg­ment and Hell, and to be giddy and distracting to others in church or on other serious occasions. You are not really cheerful when you lack sympathy. It is a great defect of cheerfulness in your character if you cannot sympathize with the sorrows of people, if you avoid people who are suffering, or if you manifest by your attitude that you are not going to permit yourself to be disturbed by their sorrows.

You need not express your cheerfulness by smiles and laughter or jokes and light-minded chatter. In the presence of sorrow, you can adopt a serious mien and show signs of sympathy, but at the same time you can express your cheerfulness in the solid motives for hope, fortitude, and patience that God has provided for all whom He asks to suffer. You will not refuse to permit any of your friends to face facts that are a cause of sorrow, nor will you try to think up exaggerated reasons for not grieving or making light of the grieving of others.

You are not really cheerful if you are cheerful only at times, but at other times give way to sadness and melancholy. This would indicate that you are ruled entirely by your feelings. It would be even worse if you had the habit of being cheerful in the presence of some of your relatives and friends, but gloomy in the presence of others, especially your own family. You cannot afford to have one attitude toward your family and another toward those with whom you mingle outside your home.

You must learn to rise above your feelings, even though the control of feelings is most difficult. There is no hypocrisy in being ruled by the will rather than by the feelings. Try to live up to the ideal of being always the same toward everyone: kindly, affable, sympathetic, encouraging — in a word, cheerful. This ideal will be recognized by all, and you will spread the sunshine of joy around you.

You are not really cheerful if you must depend on dangerous stimulants of one kind or another. Drink is often an escape from reality and makes people boisterous, foolish, and degraded.

There are three important virtues that make people cheerful in the true sense of the word: hope, fortitude, and fraternal charity.

Cheerfulness is founded on hope

Hope is the virtue by which you keep your eyes fixed on Heaven as the goal of your life, made certainly attainable by the merits and promises and fidelity of Jesus Christ. Since you always have something wonderful to look forward to, you are cheerful. Hope is a supernatural virtue infused at Baptism, but it requires ef­fort and repeated actions to become effective.

You cannot be cheerful if you succumb to the vices opposed to hope, such as despair, which is a surrender to the thought that Heaven cannot be attained and that the sufferings of Hell are in­evitable. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus used to say, “We can never have too much confidence in the good God. He is so mighty, so merciful.”

Worldliness urges people to capture every possible delight here and now. It leads to sadness, because there are no delights in this world that can fully satisfy the human heart.

Worldliness also leads to envy, avarice, impurity, and all such causes of sadness.

Fortitude allows you to face the sorrows of life

Fortitude is a basis for cheerfulness. Fortitude induces you to face the inevitable sorrows of life and, above all, death itself, in the service of God with courage and patience. You will look to the suf­ferings of Christ for inspiration. You will look to the happiness of Heaven with a heart full of hope, and you will count even the greatest sufferings as a small price to pay for that reward. There­fore, try to overcome cowardice, self-pity, and lack of confidence in the goodness of God — faults that prevent you from being cheerful. As a result of these faults, you may find yourself con­stantly grumbling against God and everybody around you because of the sufferings you have to endure.

Do not take yourself too seriously. You have to learn not to be dismayed at making mistakes. No human being can avoid failures.

The important thing is not to let your mistakes and failures gnaw away at you. Regret is an appalling waste of energy. You cannot build on it.

Instead of wasting priceless time and energy in regret or self-reproach, the wise thing is for you to swing into action once more. People give little sympathy to those who feel sorry for themselves. If you experience misfortune, other people will not usually harden their hearts toward you. They have responsibilities to face, tasks to be done, and pleasures to be enjoyed. They expect you to take your troubles in stride and to rebound into the daily round of living. Such expectations are sensible.

When you go forward to grapple with your problems coura­geously and hopefully, you cannot help having a beneficial influ­ence upon other people. Courage and hope are contagious. Spread these virtues among the persons whom you encounter; you will be rendering them and yourself an inestimable service.

Doing good brings joy

By the virtue of charity for the love of God, you love and want to help all your neighbors, especially those whose lives are in some way associated with your own. One way of helping others is by an attitude of cheerfulness.

Joy is the reward of charity. This intimate joy of the soul is dis­tinguished from all other joys by its purity. The joy that is the fruit of charity is abiding. All earthly happiness exhausts itself, except the happiness of a loving heart that knows how to share the joys and sorrows of others. The joy born of charity is one of the few joys that support you at the hour of death.

In the hour of farewell, the divine Master declared that He desired His joy to be in His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Thus your joy at doing good springs from the fountain of Him who is the essence of all love, from the fountain of God. From the waters of joy that flow in the heart of God, fountains of joy will spring up in your heart if you strive to imitate God’s great love in at least a small measure, like the fountains of which our Lord speaks: “The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

If your heart thirsts for joy, do good to others. You will satisfy your thirst in the fountain of God’s own bliss. You can find your happiness only in possessing God. St. Augustine says, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in Thee.” You can find happiness in making other people happy if your efforts are motivated by a sincere love of God.”

Love & joy,
Matthew

Irish Catholic Jansenism – #JOY is @#Heart of the Gospel!!!!!

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Jn 5:11

My mother, lovingly, and with the best of intentions for me, used to remind me, frequently, as a child, “The lightning is going to strike you, Mashew!!”  Ostensibly, to keep the straight and narrow.  And, “If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!”  NO PRESSURE!!!

There is a severity in Irish Catholicism, cf joyless Irish nuns of discipline, i.e. Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, Lake Wobegon, MN.  Workhouses for Wayward Girls & Truant Boys, etc.  I thought the Irish were tough, until I met the Polish in Chicago!!  Jeesh!!!  Did anyone else notice how the Polish jokes just stopped dead cold after JPII’s election?  They did.

“…Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?

These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their Groom
Then they’d know, and they’d drop the stones
Concealed behind their rosaries.
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room…”
-“Magdalene Laundries”, The Chieftains, Tears of Stone, 1999

Cornelius_Jansen_by_Evêque_d'Ypres_(1585-1638)
-Cornelius Jansen (1585–1638), professor at the Old University of Louvain, painting by by Evêque d’Ypres

The heresy of Jansenism is named after Cornelius Jansen, who was the Bishop of Ypres in the early 17th century. His main work, Augustinus, was published after his death. In this work, he claimed to have rediscovered the true teaching of St. Augustine concerning grace, which had been lost to the Church for centuries. Even though he was not strictly a heretic, his writings still caused great harm to the Church.

At that time, the Jesuits were heavily preaching on the mercy of God. This was seen by some as moral laxity. Also the debates with the Calvinists had an influence on Jansen’s thoughts. Without going into the details of the “five propositions from Jansen”, this heresy essentially taught that God’s saving grace is irresistible, though not given to everyone. According to Jansen, a person could neither accept or reject this grace due to his fallen nature. Although persons, who received it, were sure of salvation. Unfortunately not everyone received this saving grace. God decreed who was saved and who was lost. Jansen denied human free will and God’s desire to save everyone (1 Tim. 2:4). Even though the Jansenists hoped to combat the moral laxity of their time through moral rigorism, their denial of human free will and God’s mercy actually promoted moral despair or a carefree, frivolous life style, since personal actions had no effect on personal salvation. Due to the duplicity of its promoters, this heresy harmed the Church for over seventy years.

Summary of Catholic Teaching on Grace & Free Will:

1) The grace merited by Christ is necessary for us for all actions of piety and the exercise of every virtue and should be asked of from God.
2) With the help of grace, all the commandments of God are possible to obey, such that a chaste and holy Christian life without mortal sin is possible. Also, without this grace, we cannot do anything that is truly good, nor even persevere in good except by grace.
3) Grace prevents and aids our wills in such a way that we owe our salvation to God’s grace; if we do fall, it should be imputed to ourselves.
4) Grace strengthens and supplements our freedom, but in no way destroys it.
5) While maintaining the existence and freedom of the will, we should nevertheless remain in a posture of humility, remembering that our will is aided by grace in ways we don’t understand.

I have been trained as a catechist that the Truth, which the Church seeks, is often found in a middle course, a middle way between extremes. This is NOT splitting the difference!!! But, rather, a sincere search for and discovery of the Truth of God. The fact of the matter is, I have been trained, is that Truth happens to often be found in the moderation of extremes.

There are two known poles regarding the theological and metaphysical interplay of grace & free will, from a Roman Catholic perspective. The first, the heresy of Pelagianism, errs in assigning too great a role to free will and debasing God’s grace; the other, of course, is that of Calvinism, in which free will is negated and the operation of grace inflated to the point that we arrive at total (or double) predestination. These extremes are the Scylla and Charybdis of the theology of grace; a truly Catholic approach to this problem must sail skillfully between these two dangers, turning neither to the left nor to the right.

michael_moreland
-by Michael Moreland
May 26, 2015

“The big story coming out of the weekend was the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage, accompanied by barely concealed glee in some quarters at the humiliation of the Catholic Church. Here’s a hypothesis to ponder about the historical reach of theological ideas and the place of Catholicism in different cultures (not so much about the substance of the same-sex marriage debate itself), even if it might not hold up in every detail to scrutiny.

As Damian Thompson writing at the Spectator notes here, the influence of Catholicism in Ireland has waned for various reasons (most especially the sex abuse scandal), and one factor he mentions in passing is “the joyless quasi-Jansenist character of the Irish Church.” Indeed, while the Church’s influence across Europe has fallen, the collapse in those parts of Europe (or places missionized by Europeans) arguably influenced by Jansenism has been ferocious: the Low Countries (we think of Jansenism as primarily a French movement, but Cornelius Jansen himself was Dutch and Bishop of Ypres), France, Quebec, and Ireland. The place of the Church in the culture of those parts of European Catholicism less tinged by Jansenism has fared a bit better: Poland, Austria, Bavaria, Italy, and, most especially, Spain and Portugal and their former colonies in Latin America and the Philippines.

I am simplifying a great deal here, of course. There was, for example, a robust Jansenist movement in parts of modern-day Italy, and, more importantly, it is hard to say how much Jansenist influence there really was in Irish Catholicism (captured by the “quasi-” in Thompson’s essay). Because of English persecution, there were no seminaries in Ireland up through the end of the eighteenth century and so Irish clergy were often trained at Jansenist French seminaries, and there might have been some Jansenist influence in the early days at Maynooth, the Irish national seminary founded in 1795. But the scope of the actual influence of Jansenist ideas on folk Irish Catholicism is much harder to determine, as Thomas O’Connor notes in his 2007 entry on “Jansenism” in The Oxford Companion to Irish History (“The frequent claim that Irish Catholicism was Jansenist-influenced springs from the tendency to confuse Jansenism with mere moral rigorism.”). Jansenism was just one (perhaps small) factor among many contributing to Seán Ó Faoláin’s “dreary Eden.”

If there is something to this, though, we shouldn’t be surprised. Jansenism—with its hyper-Augustinianism, insistence on human depravity, confused doctrine of freedom and grace, other-worldliness, and moral rigorism—was theologically pernicious (condemned in Cum occasione by Pope Innocent X in 1653 and in Unigenitus dei filius by Pope Clement VI in 1713). A Catholic culture shaped by it distorts our understanding of the human person and society, and bad theological doctrines about God, human nature, and sin can wreak havoc even if the institutional forms of the Church endure for a time. Jansenism produced a towering genius in Blaise Pascal and a minor genius in Antoine Arnauld, but it was an unfortunate development in early modern Catholicism. As we think about how to build (or re-build, as it may be) Catholic culture, we would do well to remember that joy is at the heart of the gospel, and a Catholic culture drained of such joy by Jansenism or its cousins will, when the time comes, all too easily be swept away.”

Love & the JOY!!! of the Gospel,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Ascension: “Filled with Joy!”

josephmartinhagan
-by Br Joseph Martin Hagan, OP

“Where is the good in goodbye?” sings the barbershop quartet standard, a song musical buffs will remember from The Music Man. This wordplay expresses a common experience: goodbyes are often sorrowful, if not downright heartbreaking. Just think of the curbside of airports and the lingering embrace of tearful lovers.

A poignant goodbye is captured in the 1964 French film, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. A draft notice turns a young couple’s exuberant affection into tragic sorrow. As the train pulls them apart, their sorrow is heightened by both the intensity of their shared love and the length of their impending separation.

By this logic, the Ascension of Christ into heaven should have devastated the Apostles. Christ is infinitely loving and loveable, more so than any ordinary human being. Plus, Christ left without a return date. Two thousands year later, the Church still awaits her Bridegroom’s return in glory.

However, against this logic, the Apostles are anything but devastated. Just read the Gospel for the Ascension:

Then He led them out as far as Bethany,
raised His hands, and blessed them.
As He blessed them He parted from them
and was taken up to heaven.
They did Him homage
and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and they were continually in the temple praising God. (Lk 24:50ff.)

Instead of being heartbroken, they are filled “with great joy.” What’s going on here? Were the Apostles glad to be away from Jesus? Of course not. That’s absurd. So then, why the joy?

St. Thomas provides an answer in his discussion of the Ascension (Summa theologiae III, q. 57). He writes:

Although Christ’s bodily presence was withdrawn from the faithful by the Ascension, still the presence of His Godhead is ever with the faithful, as He Himself says: “Behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world” (Mt 28:20).

In the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, the angel tells Joseph that Mary’s child will be Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us” (Mt 1:23). At the end of the same Gospel, as St. Thomas cites, Jesus affirms that He is eternally Emmanuel. The Book of Revelation concludes with the affirmation that God will be with the faithful for all eternity (Rev 21:3).

The Ascension is not your usual goodbye. Christ ascends body and soul to God’s right hand. But in a spiritual manner, He still remains with His faithful. Such a goodbye recalls the very etymology of the word. “Goodbye” comes from the older expression, “God be with you.” Thus, when the God-Man says goodbye, He’s saying: “Though I depart in body, I still remain with you.”

Still, one might object: what good is such an invisible presence? Show me the presence! To this objection, we reply with the sacraments. For example, in confession, we hear the healing words of Christ’s forgiveness, and in the Eucharist, we taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Remember how, earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Christ disappeared at the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:30-31). His bodily presence gave way to His sacramental presence, both of which are Real Presences.

We also should turn to Mary, Christ’s mother and ours. After the Ascension, the Apostles gathered around the Blessed Virgin. She had borne Christ not only in her womb, but also in her heart. As our mother, she teaches us how to know and cherish His presence around us and within us. Gathered around her, we too can share the Apostles’ joy, the joy of the unfailing presence of Jesus.”

Love & His Joy,
Matthew

Mar 19 – St Joseph, Sorrow leads to Joy!!!

John-16.20

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As I have mentioned prior, Joy! is not the same thing as the quick, early-flash, “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it”, the sugar-high of some giddy blush of unearned, easy, light, incidental, or happy, happy, happy, happiness; the health and strength, vitality, appetites, it ALL works, God willing, of youth. Even these wane in the evening of life; Sts Ren & Stimpy, notwithstanding, pray for us!

The Joy! which only God gives, the relationship with Him, takes patience, takes time, as the best relationships do. (just ask St Augustine)  Start early!!! It involves birthing-suffering, silence, you don’t NEED to do or say ANYTHING. Just present yourself, more in mind and heart, than in chapel, but chapels are nice, and quiet, too.

Whatever your state, your condition, present yourself to Him, constantly, never leave Him. Let Him be with you, always, ALWAYS! He will abide, if you invite Him. He will. He will. Collapse, face-flat, spent, gone, nothing-left, and bereft, before His awesome, infinite, holy mercy. “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until disaster has passed.” (Ps 57:1)

Never suffering for suffering’s sake. Our God is NOT a sadist!!! But, as a pedagogical tool of His holy will. How else do we, or at least me, of hardened heart and head, learn?  Cheap grace.  I hate cheap grace.  Hate it.  Hate it.  Hate it.  Patience in prayer. Patience in and with Him. Trust. Trust. Trust. He gives the strength and grace to do it, too. He provides ALL necessary for His will, and our good. He provides ALL; His Holy Providence! Praise Him. Praise Him. 🙂 (Heb 12:11)

“Your faith has been your salvation.” (Lk 7:50) Your FAITH has been your SALVATION! So true. So true. It is a ripened fruit on the tree of our lives, long before harvest it buds, the gift of the mercy, mercy, merciful God, the GOOD God, the loving Father who KNOWS what is BEST for us, although we may, as children often do, do, disagree strongly with His righteous will and corrections. We do. We do. We do. (Mt 7:11)

The Joy! which the GOOD God gives to His children is the richest of the fruits of life. Richer, sweeter, more succulent than health, wealth, or any of the pleasures or people this life can give. It is. It is. It is. Praise Him, Church. Praise Him. 🙂

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-by Lianna Mueller

“On March 19, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Joseph. Though he had the treasure of living with the holiest, most amazing two people to ever live, the life of St. Joseph was filled with sorrows- but these sorrows eventually brought joy. Like us, St. Joseph didn’t know how the sorrows of his life would turn to joy; he choose to trust God and obeyed in the midst of great challenges.

Can you imagine the heartache St. Joseph must have felt to learn that Mary was pregnant? This woman, filled with virtue, appeared to have committed a great sin. The news of her pregnancy was a huge shock. The thought of also being separated from Mary must have also filled his heart with grief. He was betrothed to a perfect woman! Being a faithful Jew, the culture and law dictated that he had to part with her. St. Joseph resolved to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:19), not wanting her to be subject to public shame. Then an angel came to him in a dream, informing him that this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and was the Son of God! St. Joseph chose to have faith and to take Mary as his wife and the Child as his son. He had the great privilege of parenting the Son of God! No other man on earth can claim that. What he thought was sorrow turned to great joy.

Months later, Joseph and Mary were on the way to Joseph’s hometown in order to be counted in the census, as was every other person native to the city. There were no rooms available and Mary was due to deliver the baby. St. Joseph tried and tried, but there was nowhere to be found. (Like looking for a job?  And, money is LOW.  We are NOT going to make it in time!  WHAT AMI GOING TO DO!!!?)  St. Joseph likely felt a blow to his manhood- he was tasked with protecting the Son of God and the Child’s mother and all he was able to provide was a stinky stable for this Child to enter the world into? This must have equaled sorrow for him. However, sorrow turned to joy when the shepherds and the magi came to worship the Child. This Child, a great King, had been called to enter the world in humility and St. Joseph helped to provide that – St Joseph FULFILLED the HOLY WILL of God! – nice on the resume’ 😉 .  I wonder what questions the recruiter/HR will have when they get to that one?  😉

St. Joseph must have felt sorrow when going into Egypt. Again, he was tasked with protecting his wife and the Son of God but now they were refugees, on a trip to safety filled with perils and dangers. He knew that King Herod was looking for his Son to kill Him, though Jesus was only a toddler! Can you imagine the grief and fear that must have filled St. Joseph’s heart? However, as he had learned to do, he trusted God and obeyed when asked to do so. He brought the Holy Family to safety and refuge. The joys of the family must have been many as they raised Jesus and enjoyed time as a family, living in safety and harmony.

When Jesus was about twelve, there was a period of three days in which Mary and Joseph did not know where He was. This would have been a great sorrow. Any parent who has lost a child for even a minute knows how overwhelming and terrible of an experience it is. St. Joseph probably blamed himself for Jesus’ disappearance, thinking that he didn’t do well enough in watching out for him.   (My mother lost me in the department store, only for a few minutes, but it took years off her life.  My grandmother, Mema, my mother’s mother, was, shall we say, not overflowing in praise for my mother.   You think Jewish mothers are tough?  They are.  Try Irish-Catholic ones for spice.  Life can make you that way.  No matter what my mother did, she recalled to me, Mema would say, “You don’t watch those children.”  Nothing.  Nothing was ever good enough.  When pregnant with me, yes, I was a SURPRISE!!!!!  Mema said to my mother, “Mary, you have NO sense!!  My father upon being told of me, in the inadequacy of men expressing their emotions, and resorting reflexively to pitiful and hurtful, really, attempts at humor, said to my mother, “Whom do you suspect?”  Mother did NOT have it easy at home.  RIP.  I miss you so. )  Upon finding Jesus teaching in the temple, his sorrow turned to joy at watching his Son’s wisdom and steadfastness in carrying out God’s will.

These were just a few of the sorrows in the life of St. Joseph. Like us, he had to endure much suffering. These sufferings eventually transformed into joy as God’s plan was revealed. It is much the same in our own lives. St. Joseph teaches us to trust God and obey, though a situation may appear to be hopeless. As we celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph, ask for his intercession in your own sorrows. He will guide you in the path of obedience and trust in God, leading you to great joy.”

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient
in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it will take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—, let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
what time will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that His hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”
-Rev. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Love & Joy!, trusting in His Holy Providence & Will!
St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us! Sustain us in ALL our trials and wants! Help us to trust Him, as you did, always!!!
Matthew

The Joy of the Saints – St Teresa of Avila, (1515-1582), Doctor of the Church

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“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she laughs at days to come.” -Proverbs 31:25

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-by Rev. James Martin, SJ

Joy, humor and laughter are constant threads through the lives of many saints, disproving the stereotype of the dour, depressed, grumpy saint.

Traditionally, there are two ways that Christians relate to the saints: as patron and as companion. The patron model may be the one with which most people are familiar. Christians, especially Catholics, ask for the saint’s help, for his or her prayers in heaven, in the same way that you would ask for a friend’s prayer here on earth. Many Catholics regularly ask for a saint’s prayers, also called their “intercession.”

But the model more prevalent in the early church, and the model that has been of greatest influence in my own life, was the saint as companion. Elizabeth Johnson, a Catholic theologian, makes this point, and dilates on the traditional double model of “patron” and “companion” in her marvelous book on the saints Friends of God and Prophets.

The saint was seen as our fellow traveler along the way to God; by following his or her example the saint provides us with a model of Christian life. In other words, they serve as our models. So we can look to the saints as examples of those who not only lead joyful, laughter-filled lives, but often worked against the kind of deadly seriousness that infects religion.

St. Teresa of Ávila, the 16th-century Carmelite nun and reformer, herself spoke out against that kind of deadly serious Catholicism. “A sad nun is a bad nun,” she said. “I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits….What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.” Here is a woman whom the Catholic church has designated as “Doctor of the Church,” an eminent teacher of the faith, recommending a sense of humor.

Humor suffuses the writings of St. Teresa, an intelligent, capable and strong-willed woman. Indeed the first line of her autobiography is famously lighthearted. She begins, “Having virtuous and God-fearing parents would have been enough for me to be good if I were not so wicked.”

Later on, after a lengthy description about the nature of prayer, Teresa writes, “It seems to me I have explained this matter, but perhaps I’ve made it clear only to myself.” It is a charmingly self-deprecating remark, which instantly invokes the reader’s sympathy and friendship. And throughout her writings she regularly addresses God in the most familiar, even playful terms. Susan M. Garthwaite, Ph.D., refers to the saint’s “playful teasing of God” in an article in Spiritual Life (Spring 2009) entitled “The Humor of St. Teresa of Avila in The Life.”

And one of her most famous lines, though probably apocryphal, is also apposite: “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.”

This quotation of Teresa’s is one of the most well known of the saint’s, and is quoted in many popular books on her spirituality, not to mention its appearance all over the Internet. And it is certainly in keeping with her zestful and joyful approach to the spiritual life. There’s only one problem: it seems to appear nowhere in her writings.

Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., a Catholic scholar, a translator of her works, and a member of the male branch of the Carmelite Order, told me that he could not find it in any of her writings, though he pointed me to other places where she speaks about joy and lightheartedness in the spiritual life. “That doesn’t mean that she didn’t say it,” Father Kavanaugh told me, “only that it’s not written down.” In any event, it’s a great little prayer.

And while Teresa’s spirituality was a deeply reverential one, her humor also evinces a kind of playfulness in her relationship with God. Once, when she was travelling to one of her convents, St. Teresa of Ávila was knocked off her donkey and fell into the mud, injuring her leg. “Lord,” she said, “you couldn’t have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?”

And the response in prayer that she heard was, “That is how I treat my friends.”

Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”

This story, one of the most well known about St. Teresa, is often told as a way of demonstrating the abundant humor of the saint. But it shows something else: her playful way of addressing God. Moreover, it shows her assumption of God’s playfulness with her.”

-from Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, by James Martin, S.J. (HarperOne)

Love & Joy,
Matthew

Messengers of Joy!!! Commanded to Rejoice!!!

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No matter what happens to us in this life, no matter how egregious, we are obligated, by virtue of our baptism, and soon regeneration therefrom, to be true messengers of joy!!!! We are commanded to rejoice!!! Lk 7:50

-by Beth Turner

“As Christians, we hear a lot about joy. We are, in fact, commanded to rejoice. That being the case, we cannot understand joy to be a mere feeling, because we cannot command our feelings. However, after we have grieved and known sorrow, we are commanded to return to the reality which overcomes our pain: the resurrection of Christ. He, too, grieved and knew sorrow when looking out upon the sin of the world. But he conquered these pains by rising from the dead, and gives us the gift of such rising again through repentance and baptism.

When we look around at the state of Christian disunity, we are rightly sorrowful. This sorrow is not opposed to joy, however, because it is the sorrow of the blessed. “Blessed are those who mourn” over Christian disunity. “Blessed are the pure in heart” who long for a perfect communion that they have glimpsed in friendship with other Christians, but not fully known. “Blessed are the peacemakers” who work for Christian unity in careful, painstaking dialogue and prayer. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake” because their Christian brothers and sisters slander them and the sacred things dear to them. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” because they long to see God worshipped truly.

We sin against joy when we become embittered. From our sorrow, instead of heeding the call to joy, we sometimes turn instead to cynicism, mockery, and despair. We may suppose that people will never change and that unity is not possible. Our bitterness comes out of hearts that have longed for unity but no longer believe it can or will happen. It proceeds from our hearts to our lips in the form of insults about other Christians, scornful jokes about other Christians, apathy in prayer for Christian unity. The command to joy asks us to turn from our place of sorrow not to cynicism, but to the Man of Sorrows (what a name!). Rejoice that God has allowed you to taste the longing of his very own heart. Believe that your pain is blessed when you long for Christian unity, and you will have joy. Pray that what you long for may be seen in your lifetime, or in the lives of your children, or your children’s children.

Another impediment to our joy is shame. From our sorrow, we may doubt whether joy is truly appropriate in light of the circumstances. We see that people of other faiths may not understand us, or think we are strange, or awkward, or weird. We are afraid to become the butt of a joke. We are afraid to take the social risk of speaking of our joy in Christ. However, it should be the case that these social risks are not so great with our Christian brothers and sisters, and we should make space for others to share their joys and sorrows with us. By proclaiming our Christian joy to one another, we are strengthened to proclaim it to an unbaptized world.

A final obstacle to joy is our anxiety. We worry that we cannot do enough, that we will not do enough, or that God will not be pleased with our efforts to share fellowship with other Christians. As with all anxieties, we must do our best to trust our loving Father’s desire to do good to us and His power to multiply of our efforts, just as he took the meager offerings of the disciples, the loaves and the fishes, and of all the saints to make His glories known throughout the world.

In addition to the joy that comes from the sorrow of the blessed, Christian fellowship itself can be a source of joy. It is joy that can be hard to enter when worship is different from one Christian community to another. It is a joy that can be hard to achieve because we have many questions, concerns, and fears about the beliefs and practices of other Christians. It is a joy that will only be full in heaven, because what little unity we have now is a hard work, a toiling, and a fragile peace. But Christian fellowship across traditions can, itself, be a joy to us. Jesus promises that our joy will be complete when we live in unity with one another.

Prayer
Dear Lord Jesus, may we rejoice that you have chosen us to sorrow over Christian disunity and toil for peace with our brothers and sisters. May we never give up hope for Christian unity, may we see it in our day, and may we pray always for the fulfillment of our longing and yours.”

Love & unity,
Matthew

THE path to Joy!!!

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an excerpt from an article by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, (Daughters of St Paul) a former atheist who, thanks to the grace of God, has returned to the faith she was raised in and now tries to help others bring their loved ones back to the faith. A few years after returning to the Church, she heard God calling her, so she left her job in Silicon Valley to join the Daughters of St. Paul. She now lives in Miami, where she prays, evangelizes, bakes bread, and blogs.

“Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves.

—Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is described as healing “the blind, the lame,” and what some translations refer to as “the maimed” (15:30).

“The maimed.”

This phrase jumped out at me when I recently read this passage. I let it wash over me during my early morning meditation, and as I prayed, I realized something.

My heart is maimed.

Like all human hearts, it has been injured by original sin, concupiscence, wounds from others, and my own sin.

I felt inspired to quickly go through the narrative of my life and I picked out four people I have not forgiven. When I imagine their faces, I still feel my heart immediately harden with anger, bitterness and, in some cases, disgust.

One particular person hurt me almost twenty years ago. But I have never relived the injury with Jesus. I have not brought my maimed heart before God in prayer in order to allow him to heal that wound.

I don’t regularly think of this person, but I know that the hurt still lurks in the background of my interactions with others, unconsciously pushing me to irrational anger, to lashing out, or to withdrawing in fear from various situations.

As the Year of Mercy begins, I feel an invitation to turn my wounded heart over to Jesus to be healed, so that I may become more like him: both merciful and forgiving.

If you have not read the beautiful letter from Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, I highly recommend that you do.

As I read the letter, I noticed how many times Pope Francis connects the virtue of mercy with forgiveness.

Several times, Pope Francis describes forgiveness as the vehicle through which we can be merciful and God is merciful to us.

As I read the letter, I realized that sometimes I see forgiveness as just one of the many things I “should” do because I am a Christian. But when God asks us to be merciful by forgiving others, he is not asking us to do this simply because it is the right thing to do. But because forgiveness is the right thing to do, it is a path to joy. And God wants us to have joyful hearts.

Pope Francis writes that mercy is “a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace.”

Sometimes in our world, merciful hearts are mocked. A merciful heart is seen as a weak heart. Rather, it is righteous anger that seems to be the preferred expression of courage.

We trust righteous anger; we do not trust merciful hearts.

For many of us, the first recourse before, during and after conflict is not to humbly seek the forgiveness of God and to forgive others. Rather, it is to blow our tops, to rage and rant, and to demand justice without a drop of mercy (which, as Aquinas would tell us, is not true justice).

Why is this?

Because mercy is much more difficult. (MUCH!!!)

Mercy is the path of the truly courageous. It is not a virtue that makes us a doormat, a weakling or a pansy. It is the virtue that heals our wounded hearts so that we can respond to others like Christ—with assertiveness, love, objectivity, and peace.

Pope Francis writes: “In [the Gospel], mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon”.

Through forgiveness, mercy is the force that overcomes everything.

Mercy and forgiveness are the oils the Lord uses to heal our wounds. Our wounds never completely go away, but they make us stronger, rather than weaker, more open, rather than afraid and closed, more peaceful rather than fearful and angry.

In this Year of Mercy, may we allow our maimed hearts to be healed by our Divine Physician with the oil of mercy, so that we may become more like Christ for others.

Most sacred, forgiving Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.”

Love,
Matthew