JOY in the Spiritual Life: Q + A

“The only happiness here below is to strive to be always content with what Jesus gives us.” – St. Therese

“The greatest joy which it is possible to taste on earth is to possess God, God alone… And little souls do taste this.” – Sr. Consolata Betrone (Jesus Appeals to the World,’ Saint Pauls/Alba House) 

 “Give up your own will, if you want to be little.” – Our Lady to St. Bridget (Bk 4, Ch 18)

+ Thank you ‘edarlitrix’ for the article idea. God bless you, friend.

CONTENTS 

  1. What is joy?
  2. Is joy compatible with sorrow?
  3. If joy is not felt, can it be called joy?
  4. Joy amidst suffering: the example of the Saints
  5. How can suffering and joy coexist?
  6. Purity of heart: the key to abiding joy
  7. How do we attain purity of heart/intention?
  8. Only God can give us true joy
  9. The Eucharist: the Source of all joy
  10. Some final questions
  1. WHAT IS JOY?

Joy can be described as spiritual contentment, resulting from the possession of a desired good. Authentic joy consists in the possession of God, Who alone can satisfy our hearts, which thirst for Infinite Truth (satisfaction of the intellect) and Infinite Love (satisfaction of the will).

“Now joy,” writes St. Thomas, “is compared to desire, as rest to movement… and rest is full when there is no more movement. Hence joy is full, when there remains nothing to be desired.”

Our hearts were made by God and for God, the Sovereign Good. Only in Heaven will our joy be complete: ‘Enter into the joy of thy Lord.’ (Matthew 25:21). There, the risen body will partake of the soul’s delights, without hindrance. Also, according to sound theology, the risen body will have its own unique delights.

  1. IS JOY COMPATIBLE WITH SORROW?

St. Thomas answers in the affirmative (ST, Second Part of Second Part, Q. 28, Article 2). In this “valley of tears”, our joys are often mingled with sorrow. As we grow in love, we also become more sensitive to sin, which abounds in the world. The sight of our loved ones suffering is enough to render our joy imperfect.

Again, only in Heaven will our joy be perfect; for it is there that ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.’  (Rev. 21:4)

  1. IF JOY IS NOT FELT, CAN IT BE CALLED JOY?

Yes, for if we return to the definition of joy (i.e. “spiritual contentment, resulting from the possession of a desired good”) and to St. Thomas, we will see that joy does not properly consist in feelings. It is quite possible to experience intense fear and joy at the same time, for example.

As it is not a physical thing, joy cannot be reduced to a feeling or an emotion. In saying that, joy does imply peace and contentment – at least at the spiritual or intellectual level. To understand what this means, we must distinguish between the inferior part of the soul and the superior.

The superior part of the soul, in simple terms, refers to the spirit, whereby man is distinct from the animals. Man can know and love – these are spiritual faculties. The inferior part of the soul, in simple terms, refers to our emotions.

It is possible for the superior part of the soul to possess joy, while the inferior part of the soul is beset by all kinds of trouble, such as fear, restlessness and violent movements of the passions (e.g. anger).

  1. JOY AMIDST SUFFERING: THE EXAMPLE OF THE SAINTS

It is a fact that many of the Saints suffered indescribably. It is also a fact that many – if not all – of the Saints were full of peace and joy. “To suffer for God is the highest joy and delight,” says St. Crescentia; “but not to be able to love Him enough is a great martyrdom.” “When suffering is accepted with love,” says St. Therese, “it is no longer suffering, but it is changed into joy.” Such expressions are not uncommon amongst the Saints.

In his personal diary, for Christmas Day, Bl. Dom Marmion writes: “Aridity and temptations. Deo gratias (Thanks be to God).” This same holy Abbot – an astounding theologian, whose doctrine is very practical and consoling – writes: “In finding God, we shall likewise possess joy… It is impossible to explain the abundance of this peace in the soul altogether given to God and seeking Him alone.” These are the words of a man who underwent long interior trials, and who experienced bouts of depression. But these sufferings have ended for him, and they shall never again touch him; for he is now experiencing unimaginable happiness ‘in sinu Patris’ – in the Bosom of the Father (Jn. 1:18).

When we suffer, let us not forget this: the Cross, borne willingly, unites us more intimately to God, and leads to Paradise.

Jesus to Ven. Concepcion Cabrera de Armida:

“During my life, I never desired anything except the Cross, and ever the Cross, wanting to show the world that which is the sole wealth and happiness on earth, the currency which will buy an eternal happiness.”

  1. HOW CAN SUFFERING AND JOY COEXIST? 

We might wonder how anyone could maintain joy amidst terrible suffering. The answer is simple: by LOVE. (A supernatural love, that is). Love alone will transform our very sufferings into joy.

Jesus to Sr. Consolata Betrone:

“Love Me and you will be happy; and the more you love Me, the happier you will be! Even when you find yourself in utter darkness, love will produce light, love will produce strength, and love will produce joy!”

The greater the flame of Divine Love that burns in our hearts, the more rapidly will the wood of the Cross be consumed, thereby producing an ardent and pure charity – a delightful charity that is incomparably sweet; a charity that increases our knowledge of God (God is both Love and Light); a charity that gives us strength (God is both Love and Power); a charity that draws down an abundance of grace; a charity that increases our confidence in God’s love and in the hope of an eternal reward; a charity that renders our trials light and sweet; a charity that increasingly finds its pleasure in pleasing God. And because God is infinite Love, we can always love Him more (Fr. Paul of Moll). Consequently, there is no limit to the joy that God offers us!

The greater our love for God, the greater will be our knowledge of Him; and the greater our knowledge of Him, the greater will be our delight in serving Him. “Jesus told Mother Clement that the secret of happiness is to abandon oneself to the power of God’s love; acting in this way, He teaches us to know the Divine Perfections, which produce in us a perpetual admiration, complaisance and adoration.” (Rev. Auguste Saudreau)

Even the smallest suffering accepted for the love of God, increases our union with Him. And what more could the Saints desire – or can we desire – than God? What more can we hope for than the love, the friendship, the protection, and the grace of God? “The good of the grace of one soul,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, “is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe.” “Do you not actually possess all things if you have Him who possesses all?” (Peter de Blois).

The joy of the Saints, you see, was a result of their pure love for God. They desired God alone. Because they had given themselves to Him entirely, they were assured of His love, His grace and His protection. ‘I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me.’  (Prov. 8:17) The joy of the Saints was constant because they were ever seeking God.

God to St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi:

‘WHO WOULD HARM YOU IF YOU SOUGHT NOTHING BUT GOOD?… IF THEN YOU RETURN TO ME, WHO AM YOUR PRINCIPLE, AS THE RIVERS RETURN TO THE SEA FROM WHICH THEY CAME, YOU WILL ENJOY PERPETUAL HAPPINESS, BECAUSE YOU WILL LIVE IN ME – WHO AM THE LIFE OF YOUR SOUL AND YOUR SOVEREIGN GOOD.’ 

  1. PURITY OF HEART: THE KEY TO ABIDING JOY

‘To those who love God, all things work together unto good’ (Rom. 8:28).

Commenting on the above Scripture, St. Alphonsus writes: “Those who love God are always happy, because their whole happiness is to fulfil, even in adversity, the will of God. Afflictions do not mar their serenity, because by accepting misfortune, they know they give pleasure to their beloved Lord: ‘Whatever shall befall the just man, it shall not make him sad.’ (Proverbs 12:21).”

What an excellent definition of purity of heart: “To fulfil, even in adversity, the will of God.” In other words, we must seek “God alone, God only” (Jesus to Sr. Gertrude Mary).In joys, seek Him; in trials, seek Him; in doubts, seek Him*. Thank Him for everything that comes from His loving Providence. Believe that God permits nothing that is not for our greater good. This disposition of heart and mind, this living faith, is necessary if we are to experience true peace. If our hearts are set on self, sin, created things, or on creatures, then we cannot experience true peace; our heart will be torn in a thousand different directions.[*This does not always require an explicit intention before or during everything we do; love, says St. Augustine, is essentially rooted in a desire of the heart]

The more generous we are with God, the more generous He is with us. If we are all His, He is all ours! “My child,” said the Infant Jesus to St. Crescentia, “give Me thy heart, and everything that I possess is thine.” He repeats these same words to us: ‘My son, give me thy heart: and let thy eyes keep my ways’ (Proverbs 23:26).

  1. HOW DO WE ATTAIN PURITY OF HEART/INTENTION? 

Persevering prayer is the key to purity of heart. Constant, confident prayer obtains all. Without confidence, there can be no joy. ‘Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have hoped in thee.’ (Ps. 33:22) Without prayer, we can accomplish nothing. How can we draw closer to God if we refuse prayer, which is the key to His grace and mercy?

All of us can pray with confidence. Although it is true that the power of a just soul’s prayer is immense, it is also true that God denies His grace to no one who asks with confidence and humility.  Let us listen to the words of Rev. P.J. Michel (in his excellent work, ‘Spiritual Despondency and Temptations’); they are profoundly consoling; and furthermore, they are supported by several dogmas of the Church. The author writes:

The saints did not hope in God because they were faithful to God, but they were faithful to God because they hoped in Him. Otherwise the sinner could never make an act of hope, and yet it is that very act of hope which disposes him to return to God.  Observe that St. Paul does not say, I have obtained mercy because I have been faithful, but “Having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful” (i Cor. vii. 25). Mercy always precedes the good which we do; and it is from mercy alone that we have the necessary grace to do any good at all. The saints never counted upon their works to strengthen their confidence in God, for they were ever mindful of the words of Our Saviour: “So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: “We are unprofitable servants” (Luke xvii. 10)… Unlike the Pharisee in the Gospel, they [the Saints] found nothing in themselves to warrant their confidence, but in the mercy of God they sought and found a confidence, the foundations of which could not be shaken. This was what supported them, and this it is which must encourage you, and reanimate your fainting strength. It is of the utmost importance for you to understand this truth, that you may not again fall into the snare which your enemy has so often laid for you.”  [Source: https://archive.org/stream/spiritualdespond00gareuoft#page/n5/mode/2up]

Let us pray, then, with unshakeable confidence! As soon as our soul is touched by grace, let us hasten to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is an abyss of love and mercy. Do not think that any hardness of heart is an obstacle to God’s mercy; if it were, He would not inspire us to seek Him. Our greatest obstacle to union with God, apart from self–seeking, is a lack of confidence in His goodness.

Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata:

“Knowest thou what souls profit most by My goodness? Those who trust the most. Trusting souls are the robbers of My graces. Write that the pleasure I take in the trusting soul is inexpressible.”

  1. ONLY GOD CAN GIVE US TRUE JOY 

“Only that which is eternal can satisfy us.” (St. Therese). Created goods cannot satisfy us; they were made for us, not we for them (as God said to St. Catherine of Siena). Likewise, human love cannot satisfy our hearts. Only God can satisfy our hearts. He is the cause of every good that we see in the world; He is the Eternal Fountain from which pours forth every good. ‘Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration’ (Jn. 1:17).

Consider that all the love, knowledge and joy of the Elect is merely a participation in the limitless abyss of God’s love! All of these things can be found in Jesus to an infinite degree.

We have every reason to be generous with God, and not a single good reason to be selfish. Let us pray frequently, receive the Sacraments devoutly, and ‘attend unto [spiritual] reading’ (1 Tim. 4:13). When we die, we will have to account for all the graces that we have abused. How little do we esteem grace!

‘Peace to men of good–will.’ “If you are at peace, you have the seed of this joy that will come.” (Pope Francis) Only those who are generous with God can experience the abundance of peace that He offers. ‘You shall seek me, and shall find me: when you shall seek me with all your heart.’ (Jer. 29:13) Like St. Paul, we must ‘die daily’ to sin, so that we may rise with Christ, Who is ‘the Resurrection and the Life.’

  1. THE EUCHARIST: THE SOURCE OF ALL JOY 

‘He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not also, with Him, given us all things?’ (Rm. 8:32). How admirably are these words fulfilled in the Holy Eucharist! If we seek joy, there we shall find it! The Eucharist is truly the Risen Christ; veiled under the appearance of bread and wine is He Who said to St. Thomas: “Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.” (Jn. 20:27) The Adorable Eucharist is the Ultimate Source of Strength and Holiness.

“If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.” (Session 8, Canon 1: Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist)

  1. SOME FINAL QUESTIONS
  1. Was Jesus always joyful?

There is a great mystery here. Jesus, from Whom all good things come (including joy), chose to suffer unimaginably in His Sacred Humanity. The Divinity cannot suffer. It is in this sense that we are to understand the following words of Jesus to St. Margaret of Cortona: “All the time I was on earth, My body had not one completely happy day, nevertheless while My friends are here below I intoxicate them with the joys of Heaven and give them rest and peace.”

  1. What does the following Bible passage mean: ‘Extinguish not the spirit’(1 Thess. 5:19)?

Fr. Haydock writes: “Do not oppose either the interior gifts of the holy Spirit, which are his graces, nor his exterior gifts of prophecy…” We do this by setting up obstacles in our souls: pride, disobedience, distrust and the like. This admonition is not referring to souls of good–will; if they trust in God and continue to ‘seek first the Kingdom,’ God will fill them with His peace in time. The feelings of our sensitive nature (to be understood in a Thomistic sense) are not necessarily an indicator of our interior dispositions, nor are they a good guide to the spiritual life.

On the contrary, God wants to perfect our joy by perfecting our charity; and this transformation can only be effected by means of the crucible of suffering, which purifies, enlightens and strengthens.

“What happiness to resign ourselves absolutely to Our Lord, submitting our will to His, adoring Him in tribulation and in consolation, in sorrow and in joy, doing whatever He wills like little children!… He knows best what we need.” (St. Francis de Sales)

Let the following words (which are believed to have been addressed to St. Catherine of Siena by the Eternal Father) sink into your heart:

“The light of faith ought also to teach you that I know, I will and I can bring about your happiness better than yourself. You can do, know, and will nothing without My grace. You should, therefore, try your utmost to submit your will completely to the Will of God. If you do this, your soul will remain in peace, and you will always have Me with you, for I dwell in peace.”

  1. Why is there so much sorrow in the world?

Because God is scarcely known and scarcely loved. Faith is weak and sin abounds. “In thy amazement then,” said Our Lady to Ven. Mary of Agreda; “my dearest, weep ceaselessly over the terrible loss sustained by so many insane and thankless souls, who are forgetful of God, of their duty and of their own selves… Catholics should bear in mind more constantly the passion and death of the Lord, because the Church so often recalls it to their remembrance, although few show themselves grateful… I wish also that thou lament with great sorrow the fact that Judas, in his malice and treachery, has many more followers than Christ. Many are the infidels, many the bad Catholics, many the hypocrites, who under the name of a Christian, sell and deliver Him and wish to crucify Him anew… No torment, nor death itself, would I have refused, if such had been necessary to save any of the damned, and to save them, I would have esteemed all sufferings a sweet alleviation in my most ardent charity… continue to pray [for the salvation of souls]: for thou canst scarcely imagine how acceptable are such prayers to the Almighty.”

Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata:

“To exercise Justice is for Me to go against the current; it does violence to Me…”

  1. How can I infallibly attain peace?

Be little. “I want you in My arms,” said Jesus to Bl. Alexandrina (a bedridden stigmatic), “with the same simplicity of a baby in those of its mother.” “Give up your own will,” as Our Lady said to St. Bridget, and seek only God’s good–pleasure. He will remove any obstacles to your peace; but this will happen in God’s good timing. Believe me. I used to be consumed by sorrow; but I kept asking God for light, and He heard my wavering prayers in a miraculous manner. Deo gratias!

  1. Are there any good online resources on joy?

There are two that spring to mind. The first deals indirectly with joy in so far as it gives us reasons to believe in the immense goodness of God.

  1. ‘Decalogue of Confidence’ (dictated by Our Lord to Sr. Benigna Consolata on September 11, 1915): https://littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/decalogue-of-confidence-3/

The second is very beautiful. I happened to “stumble upon” this chapter while at Eucharistic Adoration. This was quite fitting, as it relates perfectly to what has been said in this article. It is a very encouraging read.

  1. ‘Love, Peace and Joy,’ by Rev. Andre Prevot; ‘Twenty–fifth day: ‘THE LIFE OF JOY IN THE HEART OF JESUS, ACCORDING TO ST. GERTRUDE): https://archive.org/stream/lovepeaceandjoya00prevuoft#page/162/mode/2up

Pax Domini!

‘REJOICE in the Lord ALWAYS; again, I say, rejoice’

(Philippians 4:4)

 

A Revelation That Most Catholics Are Saved (Pt. 2)

St. Mechtilde believed that Our Lord said to her that the number of Catholics who go to Heaven when they die, exceeds the number of those who go to Hell (Liber specialis gratiae. In Sanctae Mechtildis, virginis ordinis sancti Benedicti, Liber specialis gratiae accedit sororis Mechtildis ejusdem ordinis Lux divinitatis. Book 6, Chapter 15. Ed. Monks of Solesmes. Paris: Oudin, 1877). Nevertheless, Our Lord assured her that His justice will claim its due; many souls will go to Purgatory before they are pure enough to enter the Kingdom of God.

Whether or not we can apply this revelation to every generation is not certain (private revelations, in themselves, are uncertain*). It may be the case that the majority of Catholics will, in the end, be saved.

Either way, let us thank God for His mercy! And let us not be presumptuous! We will be saved if we seek God with all our heart. If we are tepid in our faith, there is a danger that we will fall from sin to sin, without even realising how far we have fallen. We must imitate the holy monk that St. Leonard tells us about, who said that, even if one soul were damned, he would do absolutely everything in his power not to be that soul.

*Still, if they are consistent with Church teaching, and if they have been given to a humble and obedient soul, such as St. Mechtilde, then we are safe in believing them, so long as we subordinate them to the Magisterium… This site only quotes from the revelations of those whose virtue has been recognised by reputable authorities.

The Eternal Father to St. Hildegard:

“Does anyone think it possible to see into the deep wisdom of the Most High and into the discernment of His knowledge, and count the number of those who are to be saved? His judgements are incomprehensible to all people. Your task is to run; for the kingdom of God is prepared for you.” (p. 315, Scivias)

What Wounds Jesus Most?

“Even the single little prayer, ‘I trust in Thee,’ ravishes My Heart, because Faith, Love and Humility are comprised in this short prayer… An act of confidence pleases Me so much because it honors my dearest attributes, goodness and Mercy.”

– Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata (d. 1916)

“Write, my Benigna, Apostle of my Mercy, write this: The principal thing I desire to make known is that I am all Love; the greatest pain souls can give Me is to doubt My goodness. Not only does My Heart feel compassion, but It rejoices when there is much to repair, provided souls have no malice. If thou couldst know how powerfully I would operate in a soul, even filled with miseries, if she would let Me! Love has need of nothing, but it must find no resistance. Often all that is required of a soul to render it holy, is to let Me act. Imperfections cannot displease Me, unless the soul loves them. She should use them as so many steps of the ladder to mount to Me by means of humility, confidence and love; I descend to the soul that humbles herself, and go to seek her in her nothingness to unite Myself to her.

It is certain that a hundred sins offend Me more than one alone; but if this single sin is distrust of Me, it wounds My Heart more than the hundred others, because distrust wounds My Heart to its innermost core. I love men so much!

“Yes, they have too narrow an idea of the goodness of God, of His mercy, His love for His creatures. They measure God by creatures, and God has no limits; His goodness is without bounds. O that men are able to use God and will not do it! Why is this? Because the world knows Him not. I am an infinite treasure which My Father has placed at the disposal of all. They who reject Me will comprehend their misfortune only in Eternity. I love men; I love them tenderly as My dear brethren; although there is an infinite distance between them and Me, I make no account of it.

… Thou canst not conceive the pleasure I take in fulfilling My Mission of Saviour. When sins have been pardoned, they become for the soul fountains of graces because they are perpetual sources of humility. Everything contributes to the advancement of a soul, everything; even her imperfections are in My divine hands like so many precious stones, because I change them into acts of humility, which I inspire the soul to make. If those who build houses could transform the debris and all that obstructs their work into materials of construction, how fortunate they would consider themselves! Well, the faithful soul does this with the aid of My divine grace; and her faults, even the gravest and most shameful, become fundamental stones of the edifice of her perfection.”

EIGHTH STATION [OF THE CROSS]

Jesus Consoles the Pious Women

“The attraction of the most sweet Heart of Jesus is to console those who suffer, to compassionate the miseries of His poor creatures, and ever to show them mercy. Let him who wishes to prove it, come to Me, He says. Let him who would purchase relief and mercy, go to Jesus and present for payment his very miseries; and the merciful Jesus will accept them provided they are offered with humility, confidence and love. O my Jesus, I will console Thy Heart, so desirous of consuming our miseries, and do Thou console mine by giving me Thy holy peace. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!”

Happy Feast of the Divine Mercy! (This feast is linked to the revelations of St. Faustina, which deserve to be read by all.)

A Defence of God’s Justice (A Catholic Perspective)

This article consists of a fairly lengthy response I made to someone on Catholic Answers, concerning the justice of God. I am responding to a number of assertions, such as that God cannot be good or powerful if, desiring the salvation of all, all are not saved.

Response:

1. “God antecedently wills every man to be saved [hence the provision of the graces necessary for each man’s salvation], but He consequently wills some to be damned; in consequence, that is, of the exigencies of His justice [e.g. that those who die in mortal sin must be punished].” (Aquinas)

2. God created no one for damnation. All can, in principle, be saved. “If all sinners wished to return to God with contrite and humble hearts, all would be saved.” (St. Leonard). If God revealed to us (hypothetically) that most men would starve themselves to death, despite an abundance of food, I wouldn’t blame Him, even though He necessarily foresaw this and decided to create these men anyway. The fact is, it would be their decision to do so; they could easily have eaten. “Woe to him,” said Our Lord to St. Bridget (speaking of a presumptuous sinner), “if he does not quickly change his ways, for no one is rejected due to My foreknowledge.”

3. Suppose that all were saved but one. Suppose also that this person was “Adam.” Would it be just if God removed Adam from existence, if He knew that, by removing him, his descendants would likewise be removed? There are a number of responses to a hypothetical scenario such as this one, but ultimately they rely on assumptions: we do not know what the just or morally better alternatives are. Reason alone cannot provide the answer.

4. Many can’t get past the fact that God created a universe that He knew would contain evil, but can we logically demonstrate how much evil can be permitted by a God Who is infinitely wise and good? If not, how can we say that a particular degree of evil cannot be permitted by a good God? (This point has to be conceded for the sake of the argument; I am not attempting to demonstrate its truth). Catholic theology says that God permits evil so that He may draw a greater good out of it. I, for one, am in awe of how God is so good, wise and powerful that He can draw a greater good out of unspeakable evil. The sufferings and death of Our Lord, for example, became for us an infinite source of grace. By His sufferings, He has redeemed ours; unlike the angels, we are able to suffer for God; we can procure an increase in (accidental) glory for Him; we can empathise with Him; we can “earn” an abundance of merits that will receive an eternal reward, which, according to the Saints and mystics, is beyond our comprehension! A Visitation nun who had died, allegedly appeared to Sr. Marie–Catherine Putigny, saying: “What are all the sorrows of earth compared with the happiness of seeing God for even one instant!”

5. Hell is a fitting punishment. God is offended by sin; God is infinite; therefore sin is of infinite malice. A holy soul once said to Our Lord: “Lord, I submit to Thy judgements, but do not push the rigours of Thy justice so far.” Our Lord replied: “Do you understand what sin is? …” “I understand, Lord, that sin is an outrage to Thy Majesty.” “Well, measure, if you can, the greatness of this outrage.” “Lord, this outrage is infinite, since it attacks infinite Majesty.” “Must it not, then, be punished by an infinite chastisement? Now, as the punishment could not be infinite in its intensity, justice demands that it be so at least in its duration.” St. Catherine of Genoa and other Saints and theologians say that the pains of Hell are actually much less than they could justly be. God shows mercy even to the damned. We must also remember that the pains of the damned are proportionate to their sins. The fires of Hell, says St. John Chrysostom, discriminate between sinners.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   6. According to St. Thomas, God cannot suffer at the loss of souls, in so far as He is Divine; but this does not mean that God is unloving, cold or apathetic. We often equate emotion with the heart, but the fact is that the Word (Jesus), had as much love for souls prior to the Incarnation (even though He could not then suffer at their loss), as He did at the moment of, and subsequent to, the Incarnation. (I say “at the moment of” because some mystics believe that Jesus suffered from birth.) We know that Jesus suffered intensely at the loss of souls. Consider that Jesus wept; consider His sufferings in the Garden of Gethsemane. Furthermore, many holy souls (e.g. St. Faustina, St. Catherine of Racconigi, Ven. Anne of St. Bartholomew) say that Our Lord suffered inexpressibly at the loss of souls. Others (e.g. St. Bridget, Bl. Battista Varani) add that Our Lord would willingly, if it were possible (i.e. in accordance with His justice) suffer again everything that He suffered to save evenone of the damned! What love! These are great mysteries, indeed, but they are mysteries that should fill us with confidence rather than doubt.

7. It is impossible, in principle, for us to consent to our creation; we must first exist in order to give consent. I believe, however, that you already know this and that you were merely saying something like: ‘Why doesn’t God give us a chance to choose to continue existing?’ I would say this: God created us for union with Him, the Sovereign Good, Who, as the Source of all perfection, is alone capable of satisfying the desires of our intellects, our wills and our hearts. In a word, God “alone can fill the heart of man” (as He said to St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi). Subsequently, our creation isintrinsically good; whether or not we acknowledge the objective Good for which (of for Whom) we have been created is another issue. Our Lord reputedly said the following to Bl. Alexandrina, who suffered from the stigmata and endured terrible sufferings for the conversion of sinners: “I have died for them, and they say they did not ask me to do so… In order to save them, I select certain souls and lay the cross on their shoulders. Happy the soul who understands the value of suffering! My cross is sweet if carried for love of me.” I certainly won’t argue with my existence. I try to follow St. Crescentia, who, when confronted with the thought of predestination, reasoned thus: “God is infinitely good; He is never the first to depart. It is His peculiar property to be ever merciful and to spare. Yes, He is my hope and my salvation.”

8. If Jesus is God, then any mystery pertaining to our salvation should be seen in the light of revealed truth. Scripture says, for example: ‘Thou art just, O Lord: and thy judgement is right.’ (Ps. 119: 137). We may doubt this if we wish, preferring to trust in our own intellect, but ultimately we have no good reason to do so – especially considering that our reason is only a reliable source if God, Who created our intellects, is true.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     9. In relation to the small number of the Elect, we must remember that this is not dogma. While it seems very likely that a relatively small number are saved (out of the total of mankind), this does not tell us how many are damned. The large number of unbaptized children, for example, who die every day are not included in the number of those who are damned, properly speaking. The Council of Florence says that unbaptized infants go to Hell, but – and this cannot be emphasised enough – the Church is here referring to the loss of the Beatific Vision; for the Church elsewhere teaches that only those who die in mortal sin go to the Hell of the damned. (I do not wish to discuss the exact or ultimate fate of these souls. Ultimately, God is all-good either way; at the very least, these souls will experience a state of natural happiness, as St. Thomas, St. Alphonsus and many others have explained).

Some final quotes (revelations):

Our Lady to St. Bridget: “It would be great audacity to ask why God made his people suffer so much or why there can be eternal punishment, given that a life in sin cannot last forever. It would be as great audacity as to try to reason out and comprehend the eternity of God. God is eternal and incomprehensible. His justice and recompensation is eternal; his mercy is beyond understanding.” (Book 3, Ch 30)

St. Mechtilde: ‘O my sole Beloved, what do you desire that men should know of you?’
Jesus: ‘My goodness and My justice: My goodness which makes Me wait for man so mercifully until he is converted, to which I continually attract him by My grace; but, if he absolutely refuses to be converted, My justice demands his damnation.’

Jesus to Sr. Consolata: “If only you knew how I suffer when I must dispense justice. You see, My Heart needs to be comforted; It wishes to dispense mercy, not justice!”

Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata: “To exercise Justice is for Me to go against the current; it does violence to Me… The door of My justice, on the contrary, is shut and locked; and I open it only to him who compels Me to do so; but I never open it spontaneously.”

Jesus to Bl. Alexandrina (October 1, 1954):

“I want you to set fire to the world with this love of my Divine Heart, today extinguished in men’s hearts. Set fire! Set fire!

I want to give my love to all men. I want to be loved by all.

They do not accept it and do not love me.”

Custody of the Eyes: A Commentary on St. Alphonsus

‘And Jesus looking on him, loved him…’ (Mk. 10:21)

In his excellent work, ‘The True Spouse of Jesus Christ’, St. Alphonsus speaks to religious about custody of the eyes. Mark these words, to religious. His advice is not to be applied to one and all without distinction; this could have disastrous repercussions. Also, his writings must be read with prudence. Overly literal interpretations and St. Alphonsus do not always mix.

One must know that religious have been called by Our Lord to be His spouse (this is to be understood in a spiritual sense). It is for this reason that they are called to practice custody of the eyes in a particular way.

The purpose of this commentary is to clarify some points that might be a source of confusion and scruples for some. Do not think that I am correcting St. Alphonsus! Far from it; I am merely clarifying what he has said, for the sake of those who will misread him. At times I am only stating the obvious. Furthermore, I am explaining his words (or the words that he quotes) in relation to non–religious individuals. This is a very important point.

The format of this commentary needs no explanation.

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“A deliberate glance at a person of a different sex often enkindles an infernal spark, which consumes the soul.”

[Comment: True; but this does not amount to saying that all deliberate glances are sinful. A deliberate glance is sinful when done for the sake of sexual pleasure, or when there is a near occasion of sin, namely lust (i.e. “seeking venereal pleasure not in accordance with right reason” – Aquinas).]

St. Gregory says, that “the eyes, because they draw us to sin, must be depressed.”

[Comment: In other words, we should mortify our desire to look at everything that pleases us. We are not forbidden to appreciate all beauty. Have you ever found words like these in an examination of conscience: ‘Did I look at a sunset?’ There is a reason for that. If it were wrong to appreciate all beauty, the Popes would long ago have asked for the removal of several sculptures at the Vatican, which depict naked men and women. The fact is, not all beauty excites lust. Take the beauty of Our Lady, for example.]

“He that looks at a dangerous object,” continues the saint, “begins to will what he wills not.”

[Comment: A dangerous object is something that is likely to lead us to lust.]

“Gaze not about,” says the Holy Ghost, “upon another’s beauty… hereby lust is enkindled as a fire.”  Gaze not upon another’s beauty; for from looks arise evil imaginations, by which an impure fire is lighted up.

[Comment: That is, don’t gaze with the intention of arousing sexual pleasure, or when there is a near occasion of sin e.g. when you are likely to experience unlawful sexual pleasure. Many of the Saints had visions of Our Lord, Our Lady and the Saints, and they often appreciated and commented on their great beauty. In his work, ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent,’ St. John Climacus – no liberal – writes: “A certain man (St. Nonnus, Bishop), on seeing a beautiful woman, thereupon glorified the Creator; and from that one look, he was moved to the love of God and to a fountain of tears. And it was wonderful to see how what would have been a cause of destruction for one was for another the supernatural cause of a crown.” (These words are even included in Dom Maurus Wolter’s classic text, ‘The Principles of Monasticism,’ p. 365, which is specifically for religious)]

“Hence, to avoid the sight of dangerous objects, the saints were accustomed to keep their eyes almost continually fixed on the earth, and to abstain even from looking at innocent objects.

[Comment: Some saints, not all. When asked by a Sister why she was looking so intently at her, St. Therese answered: “No, I just love looking at you!” (p. 120 of ‘Her Last Conversations’, Clarke)]

“After being a novice for a year, St. Bernard could not tell whether his cell was vaulted. In consequence of never raising his eyes from the ground, he never knew that there were but three windows to the church of the monastery, in which he spent his novitiate.”

[Comment: This was not the practice of St. Padre Pio, for example. Some who met him, such as Fr. Vincenzo (cf. padrepiodevotions.org ‘Newsletter archive’) , have commented on his penetrating gaze, which, at times is a source of consolation.]

“St. Hugh, bishop, when compelled to speak with women, never looked at them in the face.”

[Comment: Perhaps this was necessary for him in order to maintain purity. Priests are permitted to look at those who they are talking to. Dom Marie–Gabriel Sortais (d. 1963), Abbot General of the Trappist Order (O.C.S.O.) – and a very holy and penitential man – shared an intimate bond with Mother Yvonne Aimee (Servant of God), and he even kept a picture of her on his desk.]

“St. Aloysius never looked at his own mother in the face.”

[Comment: Supposedly. Hagiographers have been known to embellish things from time to time. Besides, if this is true, it is not necessary. ‘When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. (Jn. 19:26) A holy priest and mystic, Pere Lamy (Servant of God), was once given a statue of Our Lady, which depicted her with her head bent. Pere Lamy asked the sculptor why this was the case. “She looks mystical like that,” was the reply. “Oh,” he said; “Well, she does not look at all mystical. She stands there. She looks at you straight in the face; and that is as it should be, straight in the face.” (Words taken from ‘Pere Lamy’ by Biver)]

“For having once looked deliberately at a woman who was gathering ears of corn, the Abbot Pastor was tormented for forty years by temptations against chastity.”

[Comment: Then, for him, it must have been a dangerous look. Also, he seems to have been called to a very high degree of sanctity, as all Abbots are.]

“If,” says St. Augustine, “our eyes should by chance fall upon others, let us take care never to fix them upon any one.”

[Comment: These words do not apply to holy images, nor to Our Lord and Our Lady. They cannot possibly apply to those who are married. They do not forbid us from looking at our parents or siblings. What do they mean, then? It means, again, that when there is a near occasion of sexual impurity, we must restrain our glance.]

“But I do not see how looks at young persons of a different sex can be excused from the guilt of a venial fault, or even from mortal sin, when there is proximate danger of criminal consent.”

[Comment: Note the words, “when there is proximate danger of criminal consent”, thereby implying that the look itself is not sinful.]

“It is not lawful,” says St. Gregory, “to behold what it is not lawful to covet.”

[Comment: This must be read in the light of a true understanding of what lust is. Taken literally, this would mean that we can look at almost nothing, for Scripture says: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house… nor any thing that is his.’ Surely this is not what St. Gregory meant!]

“To practise modesty of the eyes is the duty of a religious, not only because it is necessary for her own improvement in virtue, but also because it is necessary for the edification of others.”

[Comment: Very true. Even so, it is still possible for the religious to look at others in a pure way.]

“From the moment we awake in the morning, let us pray continually in the words of holy David: Turn away my eyes, that they may not behold vanity.”

[Comment: We should ask God to be kept from impurity. Looking at swimsuit calendars, for example, is hardly going to lead to an increase in virtue.]

—————————-

Summary

– If certain writings leave us scrupulous and confused, we should avoid them.

– God’s creation is good and beautiful (Gen. 1:31). Immodest dress, impure glances and the like are a misuse of this goodness.

– Everything must be framed in relation to Church teaching. The Catechism is the official summary of Church teaching; therefore we are safe in following it.

“Q. 881. WHAT is lechery, or lust?

An inordinate desire of carnal sin, or delights of the flesh.” (The Douay Catechism of 1649)

“Immodest looks. Bold [daring] looks are forbidden, because they lead to sin, just as a parent forbids his child to play with edged tools.” (‘The Catechism Explained’, 1899, p. 393)

“Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.” (# 2391, Current ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’)

In the words of the Liturgy, Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum (The peace of the Lord be with you always)!

 

An Updated Post on Scrupulosity

Dear friends, I have updated an old post on how to overcome scruples/scrupulosity. It is new and improved. The article can be found here:

https://littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/an-infallible-cure-for-scrupulosity/

Much has been added!

I would also like to say that, for the next month or so, I will be staying in a monastery far from my home, where I will be discerning a vocation to the religious life. Please keep me in your prayers.

 “… St. Antoninus agrees with Gerson in thus reproving the scrupulous soul who, through a vain fear, is not obedient in overcoming his scruples: ‘Beware lest, from overmuch desire to walk securely, thou fall and destroy thyself.’”

– Rev. J. B. Scaramelli, S.J.

 “Scruples are like tight shoes. You can’t walk in them. Despise them.”

– St. Padre Pio

Blessed Angela’s Visions of the Mass

Angels

Bl. Angela of Foligno was a great mystic who was favoured with many visions, locutions and other mystical gifts. But most importantly, she loved God very much.

Her writings are beautiful. The revelations she received are also very beautiful. Here are a few of Bl. Angela’s visions relating to Holy Mass:

FIRST VISION

“… by virtue of His divine power, the Body of Christ could be upon every altar, a thing not to be comprehended in this present life… “But those who feel something of Me,” said God, “do understand more of it; nevertheless, neither the former nor the latter do fully understand, but the time cometh when ye shall understand.”

 After this I was enlightened and did comprehend… how God cometh in this Sacrament… together with a most beauteous company… the Thrones [“It was revealed to St. Mechtilde that three thousand angels from the seventh choir, the Thrones, are ever in devout attendance around every tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.” – Cochem]. That company was most bright, and was an exceeding numerous multitude… for it could not be measured either in length or breadth, but was ineffable.”

SECOND VISION

“Now whilst the Mass was being said, there was a priest who was celebrating near unto the time of the Communion. And as he was taking the Body of Christ and breaking the Host, I heard a voice weeping and saying, “Alas, many are there who break Me in pieces and who do even draw blood from My back!” I did therefore think that the priest was not in a state meet for receiving the Body of Christ, and I prayed, saying, “Grant that he may not be such a one,” and instantly it was answered me, “He shall not be thus eternally.”

FOURTH VISION

“And as I drew nigh unto the Communion, the voice [of God] spake again and said, “Now is the Son of God upon the altar, according both unto His divinity and His humanity, and with Him is a multitude of angels.” 

SIXTH VISION

“Another time I beheld Christ in the consecrated Host as a Child. He appeared certainly to be a child of twelve years of age, very lordly, as though He held the sceptre and the dominion. He appeared to hold something in His hand as an emblem of lordship, but I know not what, and although I saw it with my bodily eyes I cannot say what it was that He held in His hand…  Verily, His beauty and adornment cannot be described… And finally, my delight in that vision was so great that I asked no help of Him and spake neither good nor evil, for I was so absorbed in the delight of that beauty that I knew not what to say.”

SEVENTH VISION

“I have many times seen the Body of Christ in divers forms in this Blessed Sacrament. For sometimes I have seen the throat of Christ more splendid and beauteous than the sun, and by that beauty was it certified unto me that God Himself was here, seeing that it was incomparably greater than the sun both in beauty and quantity, wherefore doth it greatly grieve me that I cannot make it manifest. Sometimes I have seen two eyes of great splendour, and so large that I beheld nothing of the Host save the edge thereof. At the sight of both these things was I refreshed with so much joy that I cannot compare the one with the other, because both are so great that I do think I shall never lose them.”

Divine Grace and Beauty of Soul

“For if you saw the spiritual beauty of the angels and of holy souls, your body could not bear to see it but would break like a vessel, broken and decayed due to the soul’s joy at the sight.”

– Jesus to St. Bridget (Bk 2, Ch. 18)

“I desire,” said Our Lord to Sr. Gertrude Mary, “that you should be altogether beautiful, My beloved.” It is as if He said: ‘My spouse, I love you. I cannot bear to see your soul sullied with sin.’

God takes delight in seeing us happy, beautiful and holy. But we will never have these things if we are attached to sin. Why? Because they can only increase in proportion to grace and charity, which are opposed to sin.

“Be ye perfect,” says the Lord. These are not the words of a demanding Spouse; no, they are an admirable proof of God’s love for us. We are perfected by grace and charity, which unites us to God; therefore, by calling us to perfection, God is calling us to receive His love, so that we might love Him in return!

It is because of God’s great love for us that He wants us to abstain from sin. Sin is a privation of goodness: it is a negation, a corruption, a perversion, an absence of goodness. Just as leprosy ravages the body, so too does cancer ravage the soul. One mortal sin is worse than all the sufferings of Hell.

If people cared as much for the beauty of their soul as they did their bodies, many of us would be saints. But, too often, instead of adorning our souls with virtues, we adorn our bodies; instead of directing others to God by our virtue and humility, we seek to draw attention to ourselves; rather than growing in love, we grow in self–love; rather than “glorifying God in [our] bodies”, we profane them.

“We must love the state of grace above everything else and fear nothing so much as occasions of sin… The state of grace is our beauty. It is the reflection of Jesus Christ in His Saints. As the Father sees Himself in His Word, so Jesus sees Himself in their souls. But if the soul is stained with sin, it is impossible for God to be reflected therein. Do you expect Him to be well pleased to look at His Divine Son’s executioner? Evil is never lovable. And when we are guilty of sin, God cannot love our state.” (St. Peter Julian Eyrmard)

What good has mankind’s general obsession with physical beauty achieved? Vanity, low self–esteem, depression, jealousy, envy, lust? How many souls have been led into sin as a result of this perverse glorification of the human body, which is destined to decay and die!

Let us value things according to their true worth. Let us shun all vanity and impurity, asking God to give us a thirst for holiness. One can hardly exaggerate the value of a soul, considering that Our Lord redeemed us with His Precious Blood, one drop of which is sufficient to atone for an infinite number of offences.

We must not take sin lightly. For all that God has done for our souls, we owe it to Him to keep them pure, remembering that only the pure of heart shall see God.

“Never go to rest at night with the slightest shadow obscuring your soul. This I recommend to you with great insistence. When you commit a fault, repair it at once. I wish your soul to be as pure as crystal.”

– Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

“… I in the beginning created man to My own image and likeness, and… it is always My endeavour, in so far as you are fit for it, to intensify that likeness between Me and you.”

– The Eternal Father to St. Catherine of Siena

The Beauty of a Soul in Grace

“When God had once revealed this beauty to St. Catherine of Siena, she covered with kisses the footsteps of those who were engaged in bringing sinners back to the grace of God, and transported with joy, she said to her confessor:  “Had you, my father, beheld the beauty of one soul adorned with grace, you would certainly, for the sake of one such soul, gladly suffer death a thousand times…

Solomon, therefore, in his Canticle of Canticles, praises nothing so much as this Divine beauty and glory of a soul in grace… If the mere natural beauty of the soul surpasses beyond comparison the beauty of all bodies, even that of the sun, how much more the supernatural beauty which it receives from grace? For there exists a much greater distance between grace and the nature of the soul, than between the latter and all the beauty of the visible world. Nor does the heavenly splendour of grace suffer from the fact that our bodily, or even our mental eye, is incapable of beholding it; this is rather a proof of its excellence, for whatever we are able to see can only be a limited and earthly beauty.” (‘The Glories of Divine Grace’ – an essential read for every Christian!)

‘The Glories of Divine Grace’ can be read online here (legally):

https://archive.org/stream/gloriesofdivineg00sche#page/n3/mode/2up

If we can find the time to learn about trivial things, surely we can devote at least a few minutes a day to learning about Divine Grace! This book will be a revelation to many; it certainly has been to me. It will make sin seem very, very unappealing.

A Beautiful Revelation for Every Christian (Pt. 3)

Jesus to Sr. Gertrude Mary:

“In return for the signal favours with which I fill your soul, I ask you to console My Heart. This is the part you have to play, My privileged spouse.

You rejoice My Heart every time that you show Me gratitude for the trials which I send you.**

Let Me do what I will with youBe faithful to all that I ask of you.

You shall be the beloved disciple of My Heart, and I will take the entire charge of your soul.”

** Our Lord said to St. Gertrude that we should thank Him for sufferings and trials. Why? Because they are sent or permitted for our eternal welfare, and for the benefit of others.  They are sent by God’s love as a means of purifying our souls; uniting us more intimately to God; increasing our merits; and to “snatch many souls from perdition” (Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez).

Ponder these truths, and next time you suffer, call to mind Our Crucified Saviour, the Lamb without spot.

Some Remarkable Revelations About Heaven

St.Gertude.Heaven

Ven. Rev. Martin von Cochem (‘The Last Things’):

“On one occasion, when the devil was speaking by the mouth of a person who was possessed, he said :

‘If the whole heavens were a sheet of parchment, if the whole ocean were ink, if every blade of grass were pen, and every man on earth a scribe, it would not suffice to describe the intense, immeasurable delight which the vision of God affords to the blessed.’

And at another time he said that if God would but vouchsafe to grant him the privilege of beholding His divine countenance for a few moments, he would, if it were possible, gladly bear in his own person all the torments of hell until the Day of Judgement. This teaches us that if a man spent his whole life in works of most severe penance, and after his death were permitted only for one instant to gaze on the face of God, he would have received an ample recompense for all his mortifications.”

Rev. Martin von Cochem is right. In fact, the truth of his words are confirmed by a revelation given to a holy Visitation nun, Sr. Marie–Catherine Putigny, to whom a deceased sister appeared, saying:

 “What are all the sorrows of earth compared with the happiness of seeing God for even one instant!”