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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

The Beginning
of the Transformation

Christianity does not make life easy,
it makes life tolerable—and meaningful.


Catholic Psychotherapy  |  Spiritual Counsels  |  Books  |  About CSF

Introduction | Transformation | Opposition from the World | Neglect | Chastity | Mysticism | The Cross

IITHIN the unfathomable depths of God’s love and mercy, we can find a great treasure that offers us personal growth, heightened wisdom, and enhanced interpersonal effectiveness. Through deep faith—lived consistently in a holy and devout life-style—common hassles and anxieties of life are transformed into true peace and love.


The wisdom of the Catholic Church teaches us, though, that peace and love, like any good thing, do not come without a price.

When Saint Paul, for example, was executed by the Romans, he showed that he understood very well what Jesus meant about his followers having to deny themselves and take up their crosses. For on one day, as a zealous Jew on his way to persecute Christians, about twenty or so years before he died, he encountered Christ in a blinding flash. Humbled—but not humiliated—and enlightened, Paul renounced a pompous, self-assured lifestyle for a new Christian life of joyful devotion amidst hardship and service. 

This astonishing transformation is open to anyone. Lives of pain and trauma, bitterness and hatred, emptiness and despair—lives that, despite free will, are enslaved to psychological and spiritual blindness—can be healed and transformed.


But please let’s understand right from the beginning that spiritual-psychological healing is hard work. It requires discipline. It’s tedious. It’s often frightening. 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. 


Questions and Answers:
More about psychology and healing

Opposition from the World

Saint Paul’s martyrdom—and the martyrdom of all Christians, beginning with Christ Himself—shows just how opposed the world is to the truth that Christ preached about the reality of sin, our slavery to sin, and our need to trust entirely in divine mercy. Still, despite the persecution it received, the Church stood as a sanctuary from the debauchery and impiety of the pagan world around it.

Questions and Answers:
Is it depressing to read so much about sin?


Through the ages the mystic tradition of the Catholic Church has offered to us all we need for growth, wisdom, and interpersonal effectiveness, lived consistently in a holy and devout lifestyle of true peace and love.

So why do even Catholics themselves neglect and scorn this great treasure of the Church?

Well, in the last two thousand years we’ve come a long way. The modern secular quest for cultural diversity has been distorted into such a neurotic obsession with being “open” and “accepting” that everyone has become terrified of being labeled “judgmental.” If you dare to speak the truth about sin, you may be called “haughty” and “arrogant” and lacking in compassion—and you may even be told that you have a mental disorder!


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If you get lost, then seek the light of the Cross
to find your way out of the darkness.


And so, in our fear of persecution, we accept anything and everything today—even sin itself—as our “Christian” duty. Think about that. The world has seduced us into crucifying Christ day after day in His own name. Yet most Christians don’t even have a clue about what is happening right under their own noses.

We are being converted back to heathenism by humanistic psychology. 

So, you wonder, what does this have to do with chastity?

Chastity —
A choice you can make now regardless of your past

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)


This leads to a simple definition of mysticism: a direct and immediate experience of a pure love for God perceived as more valuable than any worldly attachment and that transcends all sense perception and logical reasoning. And, if you read the writings of the Catholic mystics, you will discover that, when they speak about love, they all say the same thing, in faithful imitation of Christ: If you want to ascend to the heights of divine love, then be prepared to suffer. 

Now, in the Prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Saint John of the Cross wrote that “we are not writing on moral and pleasing topics addressed to the kind of spiritual people who like to approach God along sweet and satisfying paths. We are presenting a substantial and solid doctrine for all those who desire to reach . . . nakedness of spirit.” That’s a strong statement, and yet it was spoken from all humility by a man who knew deep in his heart, from personal experience, that God calls us all, purely out of love for us, to a healing sanctity. We are all called to be saints, because saints are made, not born. And saints are made when wretched, broken hearts open themselves to divine love and, being willing to pay the price of holiness, dedicate themselves, through sacrifice, obedience, and prayer, to the service of others.

Questions and Answers:
Does denial of self mean denial of one’s humanity?

The Cross

Therefore, if you seek healing for the emotional emptiness and loneliness that trouble you today, then accept the Catholic mystic path of active and passive purgation of your senses and strip yourself of your own self-indulgence and worldly attachments. Overcome the emotional conflicts that prevent you from doing what Christ told us all to do: deny ourselves, take up the cross, and  follow Him (see Matthew 16:24).


This is not a command for virgins to obey and brides to ignore, for widows and not for married women, for monks and not for married men, or for the clergy and not for the laity. No, the whole Church, the entire body, all the members in their distinct and varied functions, must follow Christ. . . . They must take up their cross by enduring in the world for Christ’s sake whatever pain the world brings.


—from a sermon by St. Augustine, bishop
 Office of Readings, Common of Holy Men

Yes, take a deep breath. For how many of us, religious and laity alike, attempt to follow Christ without making any effort to deny ourselves? How many so-called Christians want the satisfaction of believing they have God’s approval and yet turn Christianity into a sort of hypocritical complacency? How many of us have been deceived by New Age liberalism [1] into “feeling good” about ourselves by believing that we can enjoy the glory of the resurrection without seeking the cross?


He who seeks not the cross of Christ
seeks not the glory of Christ.


—St. John of the Cross,
The Sayings of Light and Love, no. 102

So, if you really want to trust in God and find true psychological and spiritual peace, then—instead of denying the cross and taking up yourself—consider the counsels of this website, in the spirit and sorrow of Saint Paul himself: “For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18).


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1. What is the difference between a liberal and a conservative? A conservative—a true conservative—seeks to conserve respect for the divine mystery of Christ’s Incarnation and Passion that is behind every liturgical action of the Catholic Church. A liberal defiles this divine mystery by reducing Faith to mere human convenience and sentimentality. Therefore, call yourself what you will, but only a true conservative can be a Christian.


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