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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

Certainly some forms of entertainment are salacious and must be avoided. Other forms of entertainment may seem innocuous but are harmful when they divert our vision from the accomplishment of God’s will. But can some forms of entertainment such as wholesome movies and classical music provide a momentary way to “chill out,” “escape,” or relax? What about watching religious programming such as EWTN? What about news programs? How do you suggest that people stay abreast of what is happening in the world around them?

Outline of the Answer
• Introduction: Genuine Retreat
• Prohibitions and loopholes
• Spiritual pruning
• Wholesome, you say. Really?
• Emptying, not Emptiness

 
Even Christ Himself needed time away from His disciples to rest and pray. Thus, from His own example we can see that “retreats” from daily work can be an important aspect of our spiritual life. But we should keep in mind, according to Christ’s own example, that a retreat must of necessity be grounded in prayerful communion with God. Otherwise, a retreat loses its spiritual value and becomes a self-indulgence that leads you away from holy things.

 
Prohibitions and Loopholes

Now, in your asking multiple questions about entertainment you have already lost your grounding in prayer and have begun to fall into the trap of thinking that a Catholic mystic life is a mass of legalistic prohibitions—and loopholes. If you follow that path, you will end up in Puritanism, which is a Protestant heresy.

  

When something is forbidden to you, you desire it all the more unconsciously.

Spiritual growth, though, is not a matter of forbidding pleasure; it’s a matter of pruning away useless branches that bear no fruit. Without pruning, the fruit is sparse and bitter; with pruning, the fruit becomes abundant and sweet.

This is what mortification means: to prune the “vine” so that it becomes more productive.

  

 
Spiritual Pruning

To begin with—that is, to begin to take up the process of your spiritual healing—just follow the spiritual counsels of this website so as to prune away every spiritually unnecessary thing from your life and plunge into spiritual purity for three months. After three months you will have a better idea of what Catholic mysticism—and real prayer—is all about, and you might see things differently. But right now you are so caught up in the world—so overgrown with showy branches that bear no spiritual fruit—that you can’t see anything clearly, and so you lack the ability to discern what is good for you and what isn’t.

Read an excerpt about spiritual blindness
by Saint Theophilus of Antioch, bishop

 
I myself have a small collection of classical music and opera from my student years. But I never listen to it anymore. If I try, it just seems flat and empty. There’s nothing “wrong” with secular music; you can listen to it if you want to, but to me it seems empty in comparison to silent prayerful contemplation. Still, you may not be ready yet for contemplative silence—the taste has to grow in you over time.

Gustato spiritu, desipit omnis caro.[1]

(Once I taste of the spirit, all carnal things become meaningless.)

  

Note, however, that some music can be used to assist private prayer, especially when it may be necessary to block out environmental noise and distractions. Contemplative instrumental music, whether secular or liturgical, is best, though vocal liturgical music is also good, as long as you cannot understand the language. For example, I often pray (e.g., the Rosary, the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, and the Jesus Prayer) while listening to Russian chants because I don’t understand Russian; but I avoid Gregorian chant (as a background for contemplative prayer) because I understand the Latin and get distracted by the meaning of the words.

  

 
Wholesome, you say. Really?

I have a collection of comic books from when I was about seven to ten years old. These were called “wholesome” reading at the time: Tom and Jerry, Donald Duck, Chip and Dale, etc. But as I look at them now, I see that they all were stories about anthropomorphized animals living in a self-contained world, engaged in humorous competition with each other as they pursued their own sense of happiness. In it all there was no mention, let alone model, of genuine family life (father, mother, and children), and not even a hint of dependence on God, let alone any mention of worship and prayer.

This, however, was just the beginning.

The subtle introduction of non-Christian values and Disney “magic” has been progressing for years now, and the entertainment industry has been working subversively through movies, television, popular music, magazines, and social media to destroy traditional Christian family values and to glamorize the sin of lust in our culture. For example, it may seem on the surface that “the woman” has been idealized, but the underlying motive has been to defile feminine modesty, stripping the female body of its holy dignity and reducing it, often with violent overtones, to a soulless sex object.

The end result is that our secular culture worships sexuality as its goddess, and all Christians, even those with same-sex attractions, are surrounded with temptation to abandon their baptismal promises and to partake of the harlot’s allure.

We have been duped by the anti-Christian “progressive” liberal agenda of the entertainment industry into believing that sin is normal and acceptable and that sexual pleasure, along with the lust for power and revenge, is necessary for our happiness. As a result, instead of taking personal responsibility to detach themselves from social illusions, Christians willingly consume them.

Now, the best way to avoid infection by the desire to sin is to avoid popular entertainment, such as television (and the subversive commercial advertising that goes with it), movies, video games, sports, newspapers, magazines, music, and every other aspect of “popular” culture; these things are filled with a massive craving for everything unholy and have their basis in an indifference and contempt for anything holy.

  

We watch television and sports and we read newspapers and magazines in the hope of seeing something that will make us feel good about ourselves. We play sports and video games in the hope of accomplishing something that will make us feel good about ourselves. We listen to music and chat on cell phones in the hope of hearing something that will make us feel good about ourselves. We make food into an addiction in the hope of smelling and tasting something that will make us feel good about ourselves. We strip sexuality of its reproductive responsibilities and make it into the most pervasively sought-after entertainment of all, in the hope of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and accomplishing something that will make us feel good about ourselves. Yet, in the end, we have really done nothing but draw ourselves away from anything holy.

  

So be careful here not to deceive yourself by attributing any meaning to these illusory “hopes.” Don’t believe for a moment that there is such a thing as “wholesome entertainment.” The desire to be entertained—to be soothed, satisfied, and fulfilled—is, at its core, a social “religion” unto itself that serves the god of narcissistic happiness in the frenzied quest to feel good about our bodies while ignoring the most poignant hopes of our lost souls.

   
Emptying, not Emptiness

When Christ was born, He emptied Himself for our redemption and entered this world knowing that He was headed to the Cross, with no escape. So what gives us the idea to think we have a right to “escape” from the constant trials of a holy life? Moreover, Christ told us to pray constantly. So what gives us the idea to think that empty “entertainment” has any place in a holy life? [2]

Turn away from self-satisfaction, then, and learn to seek God alone. Once you have learned to seek God in all things, through pure love, then you can deal with the world as you need to, reflecting divine grace into the darkness around you, using the resources of the world as tools for your ministry, yet without craving the world and without danger of being snared by it.

  

Jesus criticized the Pharisees and Herodians for following the illusions of their own time. But when He warned the disciples to beware “leaven” of the Pharisees and the “leaven” of Herod (Mark 8:15), they didn’t understand.

And so it is today. Most Christians today just don’t get it when they are warned—even on this very website—to guard against the leaven of popular culture.

  

 

Who wrote this web page?
 

Notes

1. I found this quote in The Ascent of Mount Carmel by Saint John of the Cross, Book Two, Chapter 17, no. 5. (The English translation is my own.) Saint John refers to it as “a frequently quoted spiritual axiom.” Saint Bonaventure, in his Commentaria in Quatuor Libros Sententiarum attributes the quote to Pope Gregory the Great (cf. Opera Omnia S. Bonaventurae, Ad Claras Aquas, 1882, Vol. 1, p. 254), though the quote may actually have its origin in a letter (Epistle 111) by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

2. Does this mean that recreation has no place in Christian life? Not at all. Just make sure that everything you do is done as pure love for the good (i.e., for the salvation) of others, and, however you do it, do it with prayer. If you need to take a hike to exercise your body and refresh your mind from long hours of serving others, fine; pray the Rosary while walking. Do you enjoy baking bread? Embroidery? Woodworking? Gardening? Then pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy or the Jesus Prayer in the process. And, for that matter, when you do anything, even menial labor, do it with prayer and it will become the re-creation of your life.

Read an opinion of dissent . . .


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The text of this webpage, integrated with other material from my websites, has been conveniently organized into a paperback book of 350 pages, including a comprehensive index.

 

Though Demons Gloat: They Shall Not Prevail
by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.

 
Though we are attacked by liberal activists from without and by apostasy from within, the true Church—that is, the body of those who remain faithful to Church tradition—weeps, and she prays, because she knows the fate of those who oppose God.
     Our enemies might fear love, and they can push love away, but they can’t kill it. And so the battle against them cannot be fought with politics; it requires a pro­found personal struggle against the immorality of popular culture. The battle must be fought in the service of God with pure and chaste lifestyles lived from the depths of our hearts in every moment.

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