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Introduction

 

Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.

—1 Samuel 16:7


 
“I’m Not a Bad Person.” | Free Will | Finding the Truth: True Love | Chastity | Why Did Christ Have To Die? | Blood and Life | Our “Broken” Hearts | Obedient Service | A Psychological Test

 
WONTRARY to what the average Catholic learns in the average parish, living a fruitful holy Christian life is not easy. A true Christian life is hard work because it requires constant awareness of God’s presence, constant heartfelt prayer for God’s guidance and protection, and a constant spiritual battle with an increasingly corrupt and evil secular world.

Yet when asked about their basic psychological attitude about life, many persons will say, “I just want to feel good about myself. I want to feel loved. I want a sexual partner. I want to have fun and enjoy life. I’m not a bad person.”

On the surface, according to contemporary social standards, this attitude may seem benign and innocent. But it has deeper social implications that aren’t readily seen.

The fact is, in many of our attempts to enjoy ourselves we end up stepping all over other persons.

In seeking wealth we envy and compete with our neighbors, we exploit and deceive the underprivileged, and we pollute our God-given environment.

In seeking entertainment we encourage an industry that seduces our entire culture with frivolity, vanity, pride, and lust.

In seeking erotic pleasure we spread emotional wounds, physical disease, lust, infidelity, divorce, pornography, and prostitution, along with unwanted pregnancies, abortion, foster care horrors, and child abuse.

In seeking excitement we create addictions and brew a criminal underground to distribute the materials of addiction.

In seeking happiness we’re like the eye of a hurricane, seemingly calm and peaceful, yet blind to the storm spreading chaos all around us.

And that’s what sin is all about. It’s about being completely blind to the bad things we do to others as we go about trying to feel good about ourselves. And yet we’re not bad persons.

  
Free Will

We are not bad persons. God created us as good beings to share in His great love through our free will. Yet because of what theology calls Original Sin we find ourselves separated from a full knowledge of God—and from genuine love. After all, if we really knew love we wouldn’t step all over others and use them as objects for our own satisfaction, would we?

  

You could program your computer to say, “I love you” every morning when you turn it on, but that synthesized message wouldn’t be love, would it? A computer simply does what it is told to do, and, philosophically, if you cannot say “No” your saying “Yes” is meaningless.

Therefore, love must be a free choice—an act of will.

Consequently, many things that we commonly call “love” are not love at all. Infatuation. Obsession. Fatal attraction. Lust. We call them love but they have nothing to do with true love because they enslave us to illusions.

  

And so, when God created us to share in His glory, He gave us free will, so that we would be capable of true love. But with free will comes the ability to renounce love. That is what sin amounts to: it’s a renunciation of love; it’s a turning away from moral responsibility to others that ultimately results in a separation from God.

So here we are. We’re not bad persons. And yet we have the freedom to do bad things to others without even seeing it. How, then, shall we ever see the truth? How shall we ever know true love?

 
Finding the Truth: True Love

God is love. And God created Heaven and Earth to share in His love. God did not create toys to play with or slaves to boss around. He created creatures who could share in His love as equals, so to speak, in love. He gave us His love so that we could be love.

Because of the blindness that characterizes our separation from God, however, we can see nothing but our own self-indulgent illusions. Left to ourselves, we have nothing but an empty world of social constructions to give us comfort. Left to ourselves, we have nothing but pride, and in that pride we are easily deceived by evil. Left to ourselves, therefore, we are lost in slavery to sin. Therefore, only God Himself can show us what true love is. 

Now, if God were to appear to us in His full glory, we would surely drop down before Him in terror. But we wouldn’t necessarily love Him. True love, after all, is an act of self-sacrifice offered in free will, not something engendered by fear. 

  

Psychologically, fear refers to a narcissistic concern about possible damage to our pride and safety. In contrast, fear of God refers to our humble awe and service before God’s great glory and mercy. Thus, whereas psychological fear pulls us away from God, fear of God leads us directly into the embrace of divine love.

  

Read an excerpt from a treatise about fear of God
by Saint Hilary of Poitiers

So, in order to teach us true love, God chose to show it to us through the life of a simple, poor man—a life which ended with the most brutal and humiliating execution known to humanity.

It was as if God said to all bystanders, those present and those yet to be, “If you can love Him, My Son, this humble, broken man hanging in weakness on that cross out of love for you, you can love anything. If you can love anything, you will know true love. And if you know true love, you will finally begin to know Me.”

  

After all, what, in all its blindness, does human culture tend to value? Well, look at politics, sports, and entertainment and you will see an insatiable thirst for wealth, glamor, power, competition, and revenge. So is it any wonder that to show us true love, and to bypass all human illusions, God came to us in poverty, simplicity, weakness, and gentleness?

  

Christ took all of the insults patiently and quietly, without retaliation, all so that we could see the truth of the sin in our hearts—and repent it, in sorrow for the pain we cause to each other.

And that’s why Saint Paul said (1 Corinthians 1:23) that the crucifixion of Christ seemed like folly to the Greeks who valued the “wisdom” of natural philosophy; and to the Jews, who looked for powerful prophetic signs, the crucifixion was a stumbling block.

For neither natural wisdom nor human power can illuminate their own darkness.

  

Baptism into Christ, therefore, calls us to a radical change in our being. Baptism is the renunciation of sin. In the language of computer technology, it’s like saying that true Christian faith is not just an “application” that we can run on our existing “operating systems”; true faith is a process that, beginning with baptism, creates an entirely new operating system.

  

 
Chastity

Sin feels good. Period.

Sin gives us raw physical pleasure. It can be intense and intoxicating. But sin is not bad because someone in authority, for some arrogant and mysterious reason, says so. Sin is not bad because the Catechism says so. Nor is sin bad because it feels good. Sin leads you away from the goal of holiness and into the empty pleasures of merely feeling good. Sin misses the point of life.

God is the point of life, and, in regard to sexuality, He gave us genitals so that we could bring new life into the world. Note that we aren’t creators; God is the Creator and we are procreators—that is, we stand in the place of the Creator. Our genitals therefore serve the purpose of procreation. They serve love by bringing children into the world who will learn to love Love—God Himself—to become love themselves.

Despite its intensity of feeling, sin defiles love. Sin is the hatred of love. Sin makes pleasure its own end, and so it ends in failure.

Still, sin feels good—and that points to the ultimate spiritual battle. Despite the throbbing intensity of sin’s attraction, we have to struggle against its pleasures and struggle to remind ourselves that, despite all the allure, sin is the hatred of love.

The battle against sin can be fought only with love, and chastity is one powerful weapon in our hands.

  

Chastity is not the repression of sexuality, it is the purifying transformation of desire into love.

  

As the full human response to divine love, chastity encompasses all the psychological, social, and physical consequences of accepting that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). In chastity we renounce lust, dress modestly, set aside our illusions about the “self”, and distance ourselves from—or, in scriptural language, die to—the corrupt social world in which we all live, to prepare ourselves for holy service in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

  

If you take the TWELVE FRUITS of the Holy Spirit—Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Longanimity (forbearance), Goodness, Benignity (kindness), Mildness, Fidelity, Modesty, Continence, and Chastity—and mix them together, you get a fruit salad called mutual cooperation. Mutual cooperation is the essence of Christian life. And chastity is a core ingredient in that recipe. You simply cannot have mutual cooperation if you are always making others into objects for your personal pleasure.

  

Chastity is not just an attitude toward human sexuality, it is the full acceptance of the human responsibility to the holy lifestyle that Christ preached—and lived in His body—and that contemporary society, in all its psychobabble about happiness and self-fulfillment, tries its best to subvert.

Chastity, then, is a way of life—the way of life, the only lifestyle, the only “orientation”—for anyone who would follow Christ and claim to be Christian. And woe to the soul that spurns chastity. Love is chaste, and to spurn chastity is to spurn love. If you spurn love, you will find that in the end you are left with nothing but everlasting broken emptiness. To spurn chastity is to spurn Christ Himself, who, in His real and physical suffering on the Cross—truly present to us in the broken bread of the Eucharist—offers the only means to heal our human brokenness.

  

There is but one price at which souls are bought, and that is suffering united to My suffering on the cross. Pure love understands these words; carnal love will never understand them.

  

— as told to St. Faustina
(Diary, 324)

 
“Why did Christ have to die?”

Still, there are those who ask, “But why did Christ have to die? What does this have to do with love? Why was there bloodshed?”

The answer is threefold.

 
1. Blood and Life

Keep in mind that blood, being an essential biological aspect of life, is therefore a symbol of life itself. Consequently, to shed blood for another person means to give up one’s own life in order to rescue or preserve the life of that other person.

When Christ shed His blood for us, then, He did so in order to give us life—that is, freedom from our bondage to sin. Christ’s death was a glorious mystery that reverberated from Heaven down to earth, for “obliterating the bond [of Original Sin] against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, He also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

And so, before His death, Christ prayed, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to Your Son, so that Your Son may glorify You, just as You gave Him authority over all people, so that He may give eternal life to all You gave Him” (John 17:1–2).

 
2. Our “Broken” Hearts

The redemption worked in Christ’s death was an example to us. It showed us how we are capable of killing God Himself in order to preserve our own self-interests. It showed us, in a way that no event in the world has ever shown before or since, how we, in our hearts—the very hearts God has created—and through our own free will, constantly injure others and defile, mock, and execute divine love in every moment of our lives. It showed us the ugliness and sin we nurture secretly in the depths of our own broken hearts.

So unless we acknowledge the depth of sin in our hearts and choose to accept the redemption offered in His sacrifice for us—and, in humble, freely willed obedience to the will of God, die to the self-indulgent worldly attachments that nailed Him to the cross—we will never know purity of heart and true love.

  

God loves everyone, and He calls everyone into His love. But to accept this call we must give up everything that is not love.

  

This is a hard thing to accept. Many disciples abandoned Christ because of it. Even today there are those who try to make the Church “relevant” to a corrupt modern world. But Christ never said that He came to make life convenient. He came to preach the Truth.

  

Christ was not a sentimentalist. Christ called everyone—and still calls everyone—to repentance. In His own time, many persons heard His call and obeyed. But there were many persons Christ refused to heal because they refused to acknowledge and repent their sins. There were many persons He refused as disciples because they sought worldly glory instead of Heavenly peace. There were many persons He criticized as hypocrites—Pharisees, Saduccees, and Herodians. Christ was not a sentimentalist who accepted everyone “as they are.” He revealed the truth of our brokenness and called everyone to repent their sins. And, ultimately, many of those He offended gathered up their grudges against Him and crucified Him.

  

Christ was not just a good man like other so-called “good men” throughout history. Many of these individuals, although praised by their cultures for being religious or political leaders who performed notable acts of social justice, were nevertheless stained with grave personal sins. Christ, however, with the purity of being true God and true man, offers us forgiveness from our sins and whose real presence remains with us always through the Sacraments. Only in the broken bread of the Eucharist can our psychological brokenness be healed. 

Sadly, those who fail to preach this truth about our human brokenness and the absolute impossibility of healing ourselves through our illusory social identifications do no service to anyone.
 

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PSYCHOLOGY AND CATHOLICISM
 

Classical Freudian psychoanalysis is atheistic, and so is most psychotherapy today. Even though the brilliant French psychoanalyst Jacques LacanJacques Lacan had some familiarity with Catholicism, religion had no part in his psychoanalysis. His concept of psychoanalysis, which masterfully refined Freud’s ideas, was still a product of natural reason. But Lacan can teach Catholics much about psychology. To put it in a nutshell, Lacanian analysis ultimately shows you that all your identifications with the world are just empty illusions. So you start analysis with your identity like a precious porcelain vase, and you end the analysis, like Job, as a naked man sitting alone in a pile of broken pottery. So that’s life, you learn, just a pile of illusions. “Go make something of it anyway,” you’re told.
 
So what does this have to do with Catholicism? Well, read Saint John of the Cross and you will find that his description of spiritual purgation Saint John of the Cross is, in its practical effects, quite a bit like Lacan’s philosophy. The difference between the two, though, is Christ. Christ takes us outside the box of natural reason. Christ begins where Lacan ends. Lacan leaves us with the stark, bare psychological truth of our broken lives. Christ—and only Christ—can heal our brokenness. And in that gap between Lacan and Christ is precisely where I locate the relation between psychology and religion. Psychology cannot heal us, but it can help us recognize just how broken we really are, and it can help us overcome our resistance to total surrender to Christ. Once we make that surrender, our healing begins. And that is precisely what Saint John of the Cross told us. 

Read an excerpt from a letter about repentance
by Saint Clement, pope

 
 
3. Obedient Service

For Christ died also (and here’s the third part of the answer) in order to be raised again, to show us that God raises into His glory only those who, without obstinacy or presumption, without cunning or intrigue, without strife or schism or protest, empty themselves of all their social illusions in humble, obedient service to Him.

                  

Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words!

                  

attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi

There will always be those who resist this, those who attack the Church from without and those who sabotage it from within. Yet the choice is simple: will you freely and totally accept the redemption from your own emptiness that is being offered to you, or will you reject it for the sake of your own convenience?

Yet, as simple as it is, the choice still requires hard work. It requires constant effort to monitor your feelings and the impulses that arise with your feelings, and to override those impulses—those signs of what you want personally—with a firm decision to live a holy lifestyle by doing God’s will. It’s all far easier to serve the devil by doing whatever you want.

So if you fail to approach your salvation with fear and trembling (see Philippians 2:12b) because you aren’t willing to sacrifice everything for it—as in the parables of The Treasure Buried in a Field and The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:44–46)—then you probably don’t want it that much to begin with.

But if, in absolute fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, you accept the hard work of your salvation, you will then, for the rest of your life, bear the sadness of a heart broken by the ignorance, apathy, and sacrilege that surround you. And yet, in the very midst of this pain, you will bear the joy of being able to say to Christ, “Thank you Lord; now I feel what You felt.” And that is true love. 

  

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask Your pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.

An angel, at Fátima, 1917
 
 

  

The middle character in gold is the letter Shin, which refers to the Shekinah (the Divine Presence, or Holy Spirit). When the Shekinah joins the two halves («YH» and «WH») of the Tetragrammaton, the Holy Name of God («YHWH»), it makes the unpronounceable name pronounceable, for all the characters taken together now spell Yehoshua—that is, Jesus. This mystical fact in itself actually converted many to Christianity.

More about the Shekinah

 

 

Take this psychological test just for personal enlightenment.

Imagine that you have been imprisoned—unjustly, let us assume—and that you are scheduled to be executed later this evening. You are told you may choose anything you want for your last meal. What do you choose?

You don’t have to tell me your answer—just keep in mind the things you would like to eat, and then click below to find out how to score your choices.

Click to Score

 

 

 

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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.