Category Archives: Theodicy

What I wish people knew about depression

“I AM sorrowful, even unto death.” -cf Mt 26:38


-excerpts from Therese Borchard

“I wish people knew that depression is complex, that it is a physiological condition with psychological and spiritual components, and therefore can’t be forced into any neat and tidy box, that healing needs to come from lots of kinds of sources and that every person’s recovery is different…

I wish people knew that medications don’t provide all the answers…(Ed. They only treat the symptoms, sometimes don’t work that well, have side effects which are depressing themselves and take joy out of life, and wane in effectiveness with age and use, and age aggravates EVERYTHING. It just wears, and wears, and wears you down until nothing, and everything is another reason to take action not to go on.  You just want the pain to stop and that becomes the overriding purpose of everything.)

I wish people knew that millions of people don’t respond to medications, and that, while brain stimulation technologies (electro-shock like my father deceived my mother into receiving after he found her wandering around in the clothes closet of their condo) offer hope for treatment-resistant depression, these persons are dealing with a different kind of beast altogether and should not be blamed for their chronic illness.

I wish people knew that a depressed person is capable of fake laughing for two hours through a dinner only to go home and Google “how to kill yourself”, that most depressed persons deserve Academy Awards for outstanding acting, and that it can be practically impossible to pick up on the desperation and sadness in a person who wants so badly to die because chances are she is the one cracking jokes in a crowd…

I wish people knew that the endorphins from exercise are as close as a anti-depressive will get to an anesthesia for pain but that it’s possible to swim 5,000 yards a day or run seven miles a day and still be suicidal, that a sad swimmer can fill up her goggles with tears.

I wish people knew that while yoga is helpful for some, a person can walk out of the studio just as depressed as she was before Namaste.

I wish people knew that the worst part about depression is the sheer loneliness, the inability to express the anguish that rages within, and that the smiley-face culture we live in worsens that loneliness because depressed persons are so scared to tell the truth.

I wish people knew that persons who struggle with depression aren’t lazy, uncommitted, and weak, that they are not trying to get attention.

I wish people knew that depressed brains looked different on high resolution X-rays, that when experts scanned the brains of depressed people, they discovered that the front lobes of the brain displayed lower activity levels than those in non-depressed patients, that there are breakdowns in normal patterns of emotional processing, that depression can be associated with the loss of volume in parts of the brain and can inhibit the birth of new brain cells, which is why renown psychiatrist Peter Kramer believes it is the “most devastating disease known to mankind.”

I wish people knew that taking one’s life can feel like sneezing to a severely depressed person, that it can be a mere reaction to the body’s strong message, that after fighting a sneeze for years and years, some people simply can’t not sneeze anymore, that they should not be condemned or demonized for sneezing.

I wish people knew that the hardest thing some persons will ever do in this lifetime is to stay alive, that just because staying alive comes easily to some, it doesn’t mean arriving at a natural death is any less of a triumph for those who have to work so very hard to keep breathing…”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Surviving depression w/the saints – St Jean-Marie Vianney


-from the above

Jesus is in the darkness. Help me, Lord. Save me, Lord. Salva me, Domine.

St. John Vianney, the famous Cure’ of the tiny French village of Ars, is most popularly known as the holy and humble priest who spent sixteen to eighteen hours a day hearing confessions and giving advice to long processions of people. He practiced extraordinary penances and fasts for the conversion of sinners and was subject to diabolic persecution all his priestly life. It is said that the devil revealed once that if there were but three priests in the world like the Cure of Ars, the devil would lose his kingdom.

What is less known is the overwhelming depression that weighed upon John Vianney’s soul without relief his entire life. Though he was the most sought-after man in all of France, he seemed incapable of seeing the immense amount of good he was doing. Despite the tens of thousands of pilgrims who traveled to Ars each year in the hope of receiving the sacraments or a word of advice from him, he believed himself useless. The priest who had reawakened the faith of a village and set all France aflame through his preaching and holiness felt God so far from him that he was afraid he had no more faith. He believed himself to have no intelligence or gift of discernment. It is as if God drew a veil over his eyes so that he could see nothing of what God was doing through him for others. The Cure feared he was ruining everything and had become an obstacle in God’s way.

The root of John Vianney’s severe depression was his fear of doing badly at every turn, and the thousands who traveled to Ars increased his terror. It never occurred to him that he might have a special grace. Instead, he feared that the long line of penitents to his village church were a sign that he was a hypocrite. He feared facing the judgment with the responsibility for all these people on his conscience. There was not a moment when he felt that God was satisfied with him. A great and profound sadness possessed his soul so powerfully that he eventually could not even imagine relief.

Whenever the tempests of depression seemed to have enough power to drown him in the vision of his own miseries, the Cure’ would bow his head, throw himself before God like “a dog at the feet of his master,” and allow the storm to pass without changing his resolve to love and serve God if he could. Yet he kept this pain so private that except for a few confidantes, most people saw only tranquility and gentleness in his bearing.

Jesus is in the darkness with you

You may discover that the shadows and tempests of depression alter the way you look at God and the way you believe God looks at you. When you pray you may be unable to sit still or to keep your mind focused for more than a few moments. Everything may appear to be a huge gaping hole of silence, all so useless. God may seem to be mocking your attempts to pray. I know people who have gone three, five, ten years without “praying,” though they were faithful to setting time aside for prayer regardless of its seeming uselessness. In the haunting darkness where all communication had gone silent, they found loneliness, boredom, frustration, anger. Nothing. Only pain. Were they praying? Yes.

Recognizing agony in a void that is filled only with darkness and absence calls a depressed person to be present to the Now, even if the Now is darkness. There is a God in that void, the God of Jesus. To be present to this God, to know that Jesus is in the darkness with you and for you as prayer, even were no words or act of love to pass through your heart. God’s abiding love is deep within, never forsaking you in darkness. You are alone in the void with the Son of God-both of you keeping silent. Suffering with you is Jesus, the abandoned Son on the cross. When it is impossible to hold on to a thought or to pray, Jesus is praying and contemplating within the one who is suffering from depression. Day by day, moment by moment, groping in the darkness, you are not alone. Jesus is struggling with you. He is there feeling it all. Nothing goes unnoticed by Him or His Father. Through Jesus’ Spirit Who is in you, you can hope for peace.

St. Gregory Nazianzus wrote these words during a time when he found anxiety and depression crowding out any space for prayer in his soul:
“The breath of life, O Lord, seems spent. My body is tense, my mind filled with anxiety, yet I have no zest, no energy. I am helpless to allay my fears. I am incapable of relaxing my limbs. Dark thoughts constantly invade my head ….Lord, raise up my soul, revive my body.”

Love & His Joy, alone, can save us,
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.”


-please click on the image for greater detail


-please click on the image for greater detail

Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast willed that St. Dymphna should be invoked by thousands of clients as the patroness of nervous and mental disease and have brought it about that her interest in these patients should be an inspiration to and an ideal of charity throughout the world. Grant that, through the prayers of this youthful martyr of purity, those who suffer from nervous and mental illness everywhere on earth may be helped and consoled. I recommend to Thee in particular (here mention those for whom you which to pray).

Be pleased to hear the prayers of St. Dymphna and of Thy Blessed Mother. Give those whom I recommend the patience to bear with their affliction and resignation to do Thy divine will. Give them the consolation they need and especially the cure they so much desire, if it be Thy will. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Love & Heaven’s Joy!!!! BEAR YOUR CROSSES!!!! We must LEARN HOW TO SUFFER!!! 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

Bad spiritual habits

Ideas have consequences. They do. They are NOT harmless. Ask the victims of the Nazis or the Communists. Be careful what you wish for? Be careful what you think! Bad thinking leads directly to bad habits which lead to bad outcomes.

“Habits—repeated practices—that make us focus on ourselves rather than God, or stoke undue curiosity about the occult, leave us more susceptible to temptation and other demonic attacks.

Emotionalism

Angels and human beings have immortal souls. Two faculties or powers of the immortal soul are reason and free will. Using our reason, we can think about things such as the morality of a proposed action. Using our free will, we can choose whether to do it. Faculties that we share with animals are senses and emotions. Our emotions are more varied and complex than those of animals, though there is no denying that a dog can be happy, sad, or angry.

We can call reason and free will higher faculties; emotions and senses lower faculties. It is a serious mistake, though one that is common in our culture, to allow the lower faculties to govern our actions. This leads us to believe that a proposed action must be good if it is pleasurable to our senses or if it makes us feel happy. I have heard individuals justify immoral acts by saying, “God wants me to be happy.” This is true, but there are acts that will give us momentary pleasure but not long-term happiness. God wants us to live in eternal happiness, and to use reason rather than emotion and sensual pleasure to guide us there.

The same is true of spirituality. It is a serious mistake to think that emotions provoked during a spiritual experience indicate its depth and value. That is why, as we have seen, the Church instructs us that healing services must avoid hysteria, theatricality, and sensationalism. I have been present at such services where, despite this directive, people are encouraged to cry, make incoherent sounds, and even fall to the ground. A better spiritual experience is one that brings a sense of peace and calm, both during and afterward.

Spiritual Pride

The demons were good when God created them, but they fell from grace because of the sin of pride: “You said in your heart . . . ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit” (Isa. 14:13–14). This illustrates the importance of being spiritually humble; we resist demons by avoiding the very vice that brought them down.

Spiritual Sloth

Sloth can refer to laziness in work and other daily obligations; spiritual sloth specifically refers to neglect of our obligations to God. Jesus warned us of the dangers of delaying repentance and neglecting to break our patterns of sin (Matt. 5:23–26; Luke 12:42–48). The Bible often refers to this as having a hardened heart (Eph. 4:18). Another way of saying this is: do not wait until tomorrow to make the good moral choices you can make today. Exorcists say that hardening of the heart, or wallowing in habits of sin, can open us to demonic attacks.

In addition to the usual spiritual means of avoiding spiritual sloth, there is a counseling technique that can be helpful in times of temptation. Before committing the sin, we can mentally put ourselves in the future and think about how we will feel about this moment. Will I be glad I acted this way, or will I regret it? What will the consequences be for others? What will the consequences be for me next week, next month, or next year? And what will the effect be on my immortal soul?

For example, if a man who struggles with drunkenness is considering having a drink, he should not dwell on the pleasure of the drink. Rather, he should mentally put himself in the future and look at what is likely to happen as a result of this one drink. If he can delay the decision to drink—if he can think about the likelihood of getting drunk, the effects on his family and other relationships/obligations, and the damage to his soul—he may be able to excite his emotions in such a way that the drink is not so desirable. These emotions counteract the pleasurable emotions that demons try to provoke in connection with our particular weaknesses. Furthermore, by developing this thought process into a habit, by God’s grace we can break habits of sin that can be a door to demonic influence.

Casual Occult Practices

In artwork, the devil is often portrayed as a red creature with hooves, a pointed tail, bat wings, and a cruel smirk on his face. It would be beneficial if he actually appeared that way; it would be much easier to identify him and resist his temptations! Unfortunately, his operations are more insidious. This is also true of the occult practices that have become common in our culture. There are Catholics who would never consciously set out to worship false gods, but are lured by seemingly harmless spiritual gurus and practices that contradict the Faith. These are subtle means by which the demons try to gain a foothold and lead people away from God.

Playing with a Ouija board violates the first commandment, since it is an attempt to communicate with spirits in a way that excludes God. We can talk to angels, saints, and the souls in purgatory through their union with God, not through a board game. The only spirits that might respond to a Ouija board are demons and (possibly) human souls in hell, with neither of whom we should communicate.

Having said that, certainly many people have played with a Ouija board as children (I confess I am one of them). Many people my age have told me they did the same, and all have said they are not aware of any spiritual problems as a result. Does this mean that no harm comes from playing with a Ouija board? Definitely not, for two reasons. First, more than half of those in my generation who grew up Catholic are no longer practicing the faith. I am not blaming the Ouija board for that, but neither can we rule out the possibility that it had a negative spiritual influence on some people. Second is a comparison: when I was growing up most people were not wearing seat belts, and I didn’t personally know anyone who was seriously injured or killed as a result of this neglect. Nevertheless, that does not mean it was a good idea or a safe practice.

As with the Ouija board, people who have consulted palm readers, psychics, tarot cards, and horoscopes tell me it was just for fun, and deny suffering ill effects. Certainly they did not become possessed by the devil. But these activities, too, violate the first commandment, and they have the potential of opening doors to the demonic.

As we have seen, although psychics and palm readers have no inherent ability to see the future or other hidden events, demons may use these individuals and fool their customers. Demons can put ideas in their heads, such as information about peoples’ personal lives. When they report this information, they and their customers wrongly believe the knowledge came from psychic ability, palm reading or other activity. The devil would often prefer to hide his presence, and let us sin through pride (claiming extraordinary powers) and invoking false gods (such as tarot cards or the stars and planets).

Demons can also use people’s grief over dead loved ones to influence them, falsely leading them to believe—through objects being moved, or lights turning off and on—that a medium has made them present in the room. But souls do not return from the dead to leave such vague and mundane signs. And demons can use such false episodes to shake people’s faith in God’s saving power.”

Praying for safety & protection of all,
Matthew

Theodicy: the problem of evil

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-by Br Ambrose Arralde, OP

“How could a good God permit evil?” This question has plagued the faithful and armed the faithless for as long as there have been sufferings to endure. The topic is vast, but for the purpose of this post, the following from St. Augustine will suffice: “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil” (Enchiridion 9). As Christians, we suffer in the sure hope that “in everything God works for good with those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). We can look to the example of faithful Job, who, after losing everything and enduring great sufferings, received from the Lord twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10). But not all sufferings are the same, and some are more easily borne than others.

The idea of benefiting from the endurance of evils is not, however, unique to Judaism and Christianity. Odysseus, the quintessential suffering hero of Greek mythology, after twenty years of longing for his native land, returned at last with “stores of bronze and gold and woven clothing, more than Odysseus would ever have won for himself from Troy, if he had returned unscathed with his due share of the spoil” (The Odyssey 5.38-40). Still, there is something very different about Job and Odysseus. While Job suffered because he was righteous, in order that his righteousness might be tested and proved true, Odysseus, on the other hand, suffered because he was proud. Flushed with success after his triumph over the cyclops, Odysseus taunted the cyclops as well and made his identity known, despite the insistent pleas of his comrades to hold his tongue. This moment of indiscretion earned for Odysseus the hatred of Poseidon, who ensured that Odysseus would “come home late, a broken man, all shipmates lost, alone in a stranger’s ship,” only to find “a world of pain at home” (The Odyssey 9.532-35).

It is often easier for us to accept sufferings like those of Job, since it is beyond our power to prevent them. This recognition in turn makes it easier for us to offer them up to God. But more often than not, the struggles in our lives are more like those of Odysseus, the result of our own mistakes, in spite of or even as a result of the blessings we otherwise enjoy. It was in times of peace that Israel turned to idols, and their idolatry led in turn to their chastisement. Even when we abound in good works, we are in danger of falling through pride, as St. Augustine says: “every other kind of sin has to do with the commission of evil deeds, whereas pride lurks even in good works in order to destroy them” (Rule of St. Augustine 1.7). Because we have no one to blame but ourselves for these sufferings, we all too often brood and beat ourselves up over them instead of accepting them: “How can I offer God my sufferings when I caused them by actions that offend him? How could any good come out of what I have done contrary to my own good?”

Despite the immediate differences we perceive between hardships for which we are responsible and those that are unavoidable, they are not altogether dissimilar. Even though we are responsible for the mistakes we make, it is not within our power to be perfect, as much as we would like to think otherwise. We cannot overcome our weakness and finitude by our own efforts, and so it is only right for us to accept these too and offer them to God. In fact, this is a far greater form of abandonment to Divine providence, in that it encapsulates our whole life and not just the circumstances that surround it. Our faults and failures, when looked at in this light, become opportunities to humble ourselves before the Almighty and to ask for his mercy and assistance. Even when we act contrary to our own good, these acts can be to our advantage, as long as they cause us to trust more in God and rely less on ourselves. As we learn from the Easter Exultet, we can even call the sin of Adam and Eve “a happy fault,” since it “earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” Whatever our tragic flaw may be, however great the downfall to which it leads, God’s omnipotence and goodness are such that he can bring good even out of these evils.”

Love, trusting ALWAYS, and ALL WAYS, in His Most Merciful Divine Providence. Lord, increase my faith!!! He HAS been so good to me!!! Praise Him, Church. Praise Him!!
Matthew

Lent, Suffering, & Offering it Up!!!

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liana_mueller
-by Lliana Mueller

“Lent causes suffering. The small (perhaps large to us) sacrifices that we make are meant to bring us closer to the cross. They are meant to bring us to greater reliance on Jesus instead of whatever it is we’ve chosen to give up. We can also “offer up” our myriad annoyances and sufferings, or the fact that we’ve committed not to eating chocolate and there is a chocolate birthday cake in the break room. These offerings can benefit our loved ones or the greater world. Your current suffering might involve feeling constantly exhausted due to the demands of caring for young children that don’t sleep through the night. Maybe you’re a student spreading yourself thin with academics, jobs, and extracurriculars. No matter your current state in life and the challenges that have come with it, at any given moment there is always someone suffering much, more more.

Naturally, we try to avoid suffering. It isn’t pleasant. When we’ve experienced one setback after another, or a day when absolutely every moment seems filled with a disaster, it’s easy to feel “woe is me.” We are human and need to process our frustrations, and at times may need to take steps to change a situation. But the moment we begin to dwell on the negatives is the moment where selfishness creeps in and we become the most important person. We forget the sufferings of so many brothers and sisters, both within our own circles and throughout the entire world. Instead of spiraling into bitterness about the sufferings that we have been asked to carry, or even put upon ourselves in some way, what if we remembered the suffering of someone else? What if we “offered it up,” benefitting another human being? In the process, we, too, can become better people.

Let’s take a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Though this paragraph is about illness specifically, I believe it can apply to suffering in general and how it hinders or helps us.
“Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.” (¶1501, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

As I gripe about car problems and issues at work, I forget that having a job and a car are luxuries. A stable job that allows one to support a family shouldn’t be a luxury, but sadly these days it is. Poverty is a stark reality for millions of people throughout the world. Jobs that will support a family in third world countries are scarce, and many times when food is available, parents make the choice to feed their children and go without. Some people walk hours to their jobs that barely pay. Many in the United States involuntarily rely on public transit systems that can be unreliable and add large amounts of time to a commute, and that may force them to stand outside in sub-zero temperatures in order to keep a roof over their family’s head. Most of what we complain about is actually a blessing, and too often we forget that.

As we finish up this Lent and walk into Holy Week, let’s finish strong. Let’s allow our small burdens to mature us and also, in some way unknown to us, benefit our suffering brothers and sisters. May we embrace the cross and have a greater realization of Jesus’ love for us, as well as the immense sufferings that so many people throughout the world carry daily.”

Love & compassion,
Matthew

“Offer it up!” -Redemptive Suffering

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God’s Infinite Wisdom, Love, & Plan for Mercy for Whole World:  Christ on the Cross!  There is no other way!!  There is nothing more necessary, nothing more sufficient!!!  Nothing more pleasing to the Father-God; the Creator of Heaven & Earth, the Great I AM!!!  The Author of all Life!!!  Yes, Jesus!!!  Yes, Jesus!!!  I say:  Yes, Lord!!!  Amen.  Amen.

However elegantly constructed, something seems missing in our explanations of suffering. That missing thing is Someone.

Excerpted from “The Truth of Catholicism” with permission of HarperCollins.

“Offer it up to God, for the souls in purgatory or in reparation for your own sins.” That stock answer (which is almost never heard these days) strikes many Catholics today as lying somewhere between quaint and cruel. Perhaps there was something more going on here, though. For that answer attempted to link our suffering here and now to the redemptive suffering of Christ, and to the purification that the grace of Christ can work in our own lives and the lives of our dead friends and relatives. That is no small thing. Besides, as a famous Catholic writer of liberal disposition once said in criticizing the contemporary Catholic loss of a sense of redemptive suffering, “What else are you going to tell the kid as the dentist comes at him with that drill?”

Suffering, in the Catholic view of things, is a mystery. By “mystery,” Catholic theology means not a puzzle to be solved as Sherlock Holmes would do, but a reality that can only be grasped and comprehended in an act of love. There is no “answer” to the problem of suffering in the sense that there are answers to questions like “Was Alger Hiss guilty?” or “What is two plus two?” The Church has always believed and taught that there is a different kind of answer to the question “Why do we suffer?” That answer takes us directly into the heart of the Church, which is Jesus Christ.

That Jesus Christ is a suffering redeemer has been a shock and an offense since the first days of Christianity. The challenge of belief in a redeemer whose victorious strength is displayed in his weakness may be greater today than at any other time in the past two thousand years, given our culture’s resistance to the idea that suffering is the necessary path to beatitude or human flourishing.

But that is the mystery — the profoundly human mystery — of suffering. Dogs and cats and pandas feel pain. Only human beings suffer. That fact should suggest that there is a link between suffering and the essence of our humanity. Pondering that link is an opening into the entire Catholic story about the world and about us. In that story we meet an even more astonishing proposal. God’s answer to suffering is not to avoid it, or deny it, or blame it on human folly. God’s answer to suffering is to embrace it — to enter the world in the person of His Son, to redeem suffering through suffering.

Redemptive Suffering

The Bible, Pope John Paul II notes in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris, is a “great book about suffering.” In it we encounter many instances of that “pain of the soul” which is the worst form of human suffering: the death of one’s children, one’s spouse, loved ones, the fear of annihilation, barrenness, exile, persecution and mockery, loneliness and betrayal, the prosperity of the wicked amid the misery of the just, unfaithfulness and ingratitude. Suffering, in the biblical world, clearly has to do with evil. We suffer when we experience evil.

Still, the Christian conviction, drawn from the first chapter of the Hebrew Bible, is that creation is essentially good. Evil is not a coprinciple of creation, as in other ancient religious systems. If the world God created is essentially good and yet there is evil in the world, evil and good must be somehow related. Evil, John Paul writes, “is a certain lack, limitation, or distortion of good.” Illness is a deprivation of health; a lie is a distortion of the truth. We suffer, the Pope suggests, because of evil, but that very suffering points us toward a good. Suffering is caught up in the interplay of good and evil in the world. Suffering is enmeshed in the mystery of human freedom.

The Bible sometimes describes suffering as a punishment for the evil we do, but that punishment, the Pope suggests, is also linked to good. The punishment “creates the possibility of rebuilding goodness” in the person who suffers. This, John Paul underlines, “is an extremely important aspect of suffering.” Suffering opens up possibilities for the breakthrough of good, for “conversion,” for our becoming the kind of people who can enjoy beatitude with God, because we “recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance.”  AMEN!!!  AMEN!!!  AMEN!!!!  Praise Him!!!  Praise Him, Church!!!  Praise Him!!!!!  Let the Earth resound with the Glory of God!!!!  AMEN!!! AMEN!!!!  AMEN!!!

Still, the Pope suggests, the mystery of suffering is not ultimately susceptible to rational explanation. However elegantly constructed, our explanations leave us dissatisfied. Something seems missing. That missing something, the Pope suggests, is in fact someone: Jesus Christ.

God’s love, which was so great that it burst the boundaries of God’s inner life and poured itself forth in creation, is “the ultimate source of the meaning of everything that exists,” including, of course, the meaning of suffering. Learning that “love is…the fullest source of the answer to the question of the meaning of suffering” requires not a rational argument, but a demonstration. That is what God has “given…in the cross of Jesus Christ.”

The entire life of Christ points inexorably toward the cross. Jesus’ human life is a growth into the world of suffering to which he responds by his healings. Those healings, both physical and psychological, are signs that the Kingdom of God, a world beyond suffering, is breaking into this world. Yet even as he heals the suffering, Christ suffers. He experiences exhaustion, homelessness, the misunderstanding of those closest to Him. When Peter rebukes Jesus for saying that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer, Jesus turns on the fisherman and calls him “Satan” (Matthew 16.23). Slowly, relentlessly, the net of hostility closes around Jesus, and the crux of the matter is at hand: the moment in which to link suffering to love in the passion of the cross.

Christ’s was an “incomparable depth and intensity of suffering.” Christ suffers as a man, but “insofar as the man who suffers is in person the only begotten Son Himself,” John Paul writes, Christ’s suffering has a cosmic and divine density that is “capable of embracing the measure of evil” contained in the whole of human history. As the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar puts it in almost frightening language, we cannot imagine what agonies that entailed. What it would mean to “bear the burden of the world’s guilt, to experience in oneself the inner perversion of a humankind that refuses any sort of service, any sort of respect, to God” is beyond our comprehension. We cannot imagine the suffering involved when the Son takes on Himself all that the Father finds abominable. Yet that is what Christ suffers on the cross.

In Christ on the cross, we meet the triune God’s “eternal…plan…to clear out all the refuse of the world’s sin by burning it in the fire of suffering love.” Christ’s passion is the embodiment in history of “the fire that has burned eternally in God as [a] blazing passion,” the passion of resolute and radical love. God burns for the world to enter into this divine passion. For that to happen, the burning love of God in Himself must reach out to the world and redeem it by consuming everything in the world that is incapable of love, including evil and suffering.

That is what happens on the cross when, in obedience to the Father and in the most profound act of self-giving love, the Son takes all the world’s evil upon Himself, including the evil of death. On the cross, Balthasar writes, two eternal realities meet: “God’s fury, which will make no compromises with sin but can only reject it and burn it to ashes, and God’s love, which begins to reveal itself precisely at the place of this inexorable confrontation.” The cross is not the end of the story. On the cross, evil and death are overcome through redemptive suffering. Christ conquers suffering by his “obedience unto death,” which the Father vindicates in the resurrection.

In the mystery of God’s love, burning its way through the world and through history, the moment of catastrophe is, in truth, the moment of liberation.”

Love,
Matthew

Catholic requirement to fight evil!!! Put on the armor of salvation!!

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“Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong.   Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks.   We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.   So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.

Be ready! Let the truth be like a belt around your waist, and let God’s justice protect you like armor.   Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet.   Let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the flaming arrows of the evil one.   Let God’s saving power be like a helmet, and for a sword use God’s message that comes from the Spirit.

 Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God’s people.   Pray that I will be given the message to speak and that I may fearlessly explain the mystery about the good news.   I was sent to do this work, and that’s the reason I am in jail. So pray that I will be brave and will speak as I should.”

-Eph 6:10-20

Trains of thought are a lovely thing!  I LOVE where they take me, perhaps even if those who love me most are not as enthralled?  🙂  Please especially pray for Kelly, Mara, and Nora.  Bless them.  🙂

Asking questions is one of the characteristically Catholic things I love MOST about being Catholic!  Maybe you have noticed?  No?  It is.  It’s true.  I do.

“There’s a deeper war we must fight, all of us! This deep war against evil!” – Pope Francis

The Holy Father’s Angelus address for Sept 8
September 08, 2013 01:51 EST
-Catherine Harmon

“Below is the partial text of Pope Francis’ Angelus address for September 8, delivered this morning in Rome to the assembled crowd in St. Peter’s Square, the morning after the Holy Father led a prayer vigil for peace in Syria in that same space. Translation via Vatican Radio.

***

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In the Gospel for today, Jesus reiterates the conditions for being His disciples: not putting anything before your love for Him, carrying your cross, and following Him. Many people came up to Jesus, wanted to be one of His followers; and this would happen especially in the wake of some prodigious dream, that indicated Him as the Messiah, the King of Israel. But Jesus doesn’t want to create illusions for anyone. He knows full well what awaits Him in Jerusalem, the road that the Father is asking Him to take: it’s the road of the cross, of sacrificing Himself for the redemption of our sins. Following Jesus doesn’t mean taking part in a triumphal parade! It means sharing in His merciful love, becoming part of His great mission of mercy towards each and every man. The mission of Jesus is precisely a mission of mercy, of forgiveness, of love! Jesus is so merciful! And this universal forgiveness, this mercy, comes through the cross.

Jesus doesn’t want to carry out this mission alone: He wants to involve us too, in the mission that the Father entrusted to Him. After the resurrection, He will say to His disciples. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you… If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven” (John 20, 21.22). A disciple of Jesus gives up all his or her goods, because he or she has found in Him the greatest Good, within which every other good receives its true worth and meaning: family relations, other relationships, work, cultural and economic wealth, and so forth… A Christian detaches from everything, and then finds everything in the logic of the Gospel, the logic of love and service.

To explain this requirement, Jesus uses two parables: the one of the tower to be built, and the one of the king who goes to war. The second parable goes like this: “What king, marching to war against another king, would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other, who was advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace” (Luke 14, 31-32). Here Jesus doesn’t want to discuss war, it’s only a parable. But at this moment in time, when we’re strongly praying for peace, this Word of the Lord affects us closely, and fundamentally it says: there’s a deeper war we must fight, all of us! It’s the strong and brave decision to renounce evil and its seductions, and to choose good, fully prepared to pay personally: that’s following Christ, that’s taking up our cross! This deep war against evil!

What’s the point of fighting wars, many wars, if you’re not capable of fighting this deep war against evil? There’s no point! It’s no good… This means, among other things, this war against evil means saying no to fratricidal hatred, and to the lies that it uses; saying no to violence in all its forms; saying no to the proliferation of arms and their sale on the black market. There are so many of them! There are so many of them! And the doubt always remains: this war over there, this other war over there – because there are wars everywhere – is it really a war over problems, or is it a commercial war, to sell these arms on the black market? These are the enemies we must fight, united and coherent, following no other interests but those of peace and of the common good…”

“His will be done; His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven!”

St_Michael_the_Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

O glorious prince St. Michael,
chief and commander of the heavenly hosts,
guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits,
servant in the house of the Divine King
and our admirable conductor,
you who shine with excellence
and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil,
who turn to you with confidence
and enable us by your gracious protection
to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.
-1 Peter 5:8–9

“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.”
-Saint Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002

“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.”
-Pope Francis, Halloween 2014

Love,
Matthew

Theodicy – The Problem of Evil 2

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-by Scipione Tadolini, “St Michael the Archangel”, 1865, Marble sculpture, Rotunda, Gasson Hall, Boston College.

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.  To Him be dominion forever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:8-11

The last thing the Enemy wishes is our despair.

Satan’s Tools

There is a story about Satan selling some of his tools at a garage sale he was giving. There on tables grouped by importance were his bright, shiny but deadly trinkets.

One could find tools that made it easy to tear others down.  And for those who had big egos, there were lenses for magnifying one’s own importance, but if you looked through them the other way, you could also use the lens to belittle others.

An unusual assortment of gardening implements stood together with a guarantee to help your pride grow by leaps and bounds.  Also in prominence was the rake of scorn, the shovel of jealousy for digging a pit for your neighbor, tools of gossip and backbiting, of selfishness and apathy.

All of these were pleasing to the eye and came complete with great promises and guarantees of prosperity.  The prices, of course, were steep but a sign declared “Free Credit Extended” to all.  “Take at least one home, use it.  You don’t have to pay until later!” old Satan cried rubbing his hands in glee.

One prospective buyer was looking at all the things offered when he noticed two well-worn, non-descript tools standing in one corner.    Not being nearly as tempting as the other items, he found it curious that these two tools had price tags higher than any other.

When he asked why, Satan just laughed and said, “Well, that’s because these two are more useful to me than the others.  I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with these when I cannot get near them with my other tools. Once I get inside, I can make people do what I choose. They are badly worn because I use them on almost everyone, since very few people know that they belong to me.”

Satan pointed to the two tools, saying, “You see, I call that one Doubt and the other Discouragement. Those will work when nothing else will.”

Resist him, solid in your faith.  We used to call this Spiritual Warfare.  The Lord’s love is infinitely stronger than any evil.  He is God.  He cannot be defeated.  The Prince of Lies wishes us to believe he can defeat Him.  It is a lie.  Do not listen to him.  With the power of prayer and trust in the Lord, banish the Liar to the void of suffering from whence he came for his rebellion against God, to which he wishes to drag us all.  Resist him, solid in your faith.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim, may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim, may the Lord grant us the grace to leave the ways of sin and run in the paths of Christian perfection. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones, may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominions, may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers, may the Lord protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues, may the Lord preserve us from evil and falling into temptation. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities, may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels, may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works in order that we may attain the glory of Heaven. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels, may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted in the life to come to Heaven. Amen.

O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, thou who dost shine with excellence and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil, who turn to thee with confidence and enable us by your gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ, that we may be made worthy of His promises.

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who, by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, has appointed the most glorious Archangel St. Michael, Prince of Thy Church, make us worthy, we beseech Thee, to be delivered from all our enemies, that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into the August Presence of Thy Divine Majesty. This we beg through the merits of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodicy

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-by Rev. Andrew Hofer, OP, teaches at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. This article comes from the September 2011 issue of The Irish Rover, a newspaper produced by students at the University of Notre Dame.

“How do we reconcile God’s omnipresence with the existence and agency of the Devil and with the presence of sin and evil in general?”

A perennial problem in human thinking is the question of good and evil. How can we reconcile the presence of God and the presence of evil forces that we experience in the world? In Christianity, Gottfried Leibniz (d. 1716) was especially famous for framing the question of theodicy, that is, how to justify God when we face the problem of evil.

If God is infinitely good, all-powerful, omnipresent, and all-loving, how could there be evil forces at work in creation? Various approaches are taken to answer this today. One approach is to be silent in the face of the mystery of suffering.

For some of those who articulate an answer, it seems that God has too exalted a job description! They want to lessen God’s descriptions. God isn’t REALLY almighty, they say. He’s working out His salvation, and ours, in a complex cosmos.

An even more serious objection arising from the question of evil is that God simply doesn’t exist. This modern-sounding objection is, in fact, one that St. Thomas Aquinas considers when asking “Does God exist?” in SUMMA THEOLOGIAE Ia, q. 2, a. 3. The objection runs like this. It seems that God does not exist. If one of two contraries is infinite, the other would be totally destroyed. But this word “God” is understood to mean infinite goodness. If therefore God exists, evil couldn’t be found. But evil is found in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

Few people may go through this reasoning in a logical syllogism, but many people wonder along those lines when bad things happen. How could God let my friend suffer and die? Where was God in the September 11 attacks against America ten years ago? Individual painful experiences such as these can drive people to agnosticism or atheism.

For his part, St. Thomas answers the objection from evil concerning God’s existence with a quotation from St. Augustine: “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” St. Thomas continues to say that this is actually a part of God’s infinite goodness: He allows evil—and out of that evil produces good. In other words, God does not directly will evil, and when He declines to prevent it (see Job), He who made creation from nothing has a plan to make something very good out of the disorder of evil.

In responding to the question of evil, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “No quick answer will suffice…. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE ASPECT OF THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE THAT IS NOT IN PART AN ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF EVIL” (309). In the world that we have, with its freedom and the misuse of freedom in sin, there are devils and sinners. God doesn’t obliterate devils after their fall, which was their irrevocable everlasting choice against God’s goodness. God created devils originally as good angels, and their own choice to turn away from Him does not cause God to destroy them. He also doesn’t obliterate us human sinners. Even when God’s own Son became man and was crucified by evil forces, by our sins, God did not obliterate His creation. He showed that the horror imposed upon Jesus could be used for our salvation. In fact, it is by “his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:5). When we experience evil personally, when we suffer, it is an invitation to be united with Jesus, “to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col 1:24).

For nearly 2,000 years, Christians have proclaimed to the world that “Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” His Resurrection beckons us to live by the Holy Spirit and see how no evil, however horrible it is, can be a match for God’s almighty goodness. It doesn’t make everything easy in this world. But our faith in the Resurrection, where God triumphs over ALL evil forces, sustains us. The mystery of God’s triumph calls us both to silent prayer at the foot of the Cross, and to joyful preaching of the Good News.”

Love,
Matthew