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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

When I yield to my spirit’s yearning for intimacy with the divine, I feel driven to purge from my life anything that might be idolatrous, that is, anything with which I identify that might be a hindrance to intimacy with God—friends, affections, habits, my name, my membership to certain organizations (i.e. the military), essentially, most of what makes me me.

While there is obviously Biblical merit to separating from sin and idolatry in the pursuit of God and realizing by faith our identity in Him, it is the draconian and ruthless manner in which I feel driven toward such separatism by what I perceive to be God’s Spirit that unsettles and repulses me.

The fruits of the Spirit and the wisdom and will of God, as detailed by the New Testament writers, are expressed through agape love and are “heavy” on gentleness, compassion, truth spoken in love and an effort to only do what is honorable and good in the eyes of all. So why do I sense a calling to tell others whom I have shared a spiritually errant past that they are dead to me and then treat them as such, and speak the “truth” without tact, consideration and thought of its “benefit” for others in my dealing with the world?

I have read countless spiritual works over the past decade by those who made “knowing God” their single-minded desire. The guiding principle for these men and women seems to be an uninterrupted receptivity to His presence and hearing His voice. Many seem to echo my own spirit’s desire to cast aside with severity anything that would distract this singleminded attention to the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

When I read the Scriptures, however, love for God is to be expressed through love for our neighbor. Even abiding in Christ, as portrayed in the Vine and the Branches metaphor in John 15, seems contingent upon obeying the command to love our fellow believers. While the love of God for us is the driving force for love for our neighbor, the pervading theme of the New Testament seems to be that it is through love for humanity, particularly other believers, that we experience this love.

This is the paradox of love which first drew me to seek out Christ in earnest.

My basic dilemma: I “want to want” to yield to, receive and reflect God’s love for a the world through the selfless avenues of truth, gentleness, compassion, grace, sacrifice, and wisdom, but I sense in my spirit that I am being led to cast those considerations aside in drawing close to God.

It is as if God is asking me to unlearn my conception of love, which is rooted in my own insecurities and brokenness, and while I welcome such healing, I resist, stating in my heart that while I may not know what love is, I “know what it ain’t,” specifically, a cold and callous treatment of others, even in the pursuit of God. While I realize a relationship with God isn’t based on the law, I fail to understand why intimacy with Him would contradict the law of love.

I long to experience the love of God through love for others, not at their expense, and so I press on in self-effort and erratic spirituality, rather than receptivity to His Spirit. This is not a “dark night of the soul,” but more a cathartic and at times blasphemous wrestling with God. I fully realize that at the root of my resistance is something self-protective and distrustful of God, where my deepest healing and liberation needs to take place, but that does little to negate the reality that treating others in an unloving manner seems uncharacteristic of Christ, no matter how impure or insecure my motive. If I am honest, I essentially refuse to believe that the end (intimacy with God) justifies the means (draconian separatism and emotional insensitivity toward others). Moreover, I refuse to follow that God in intimacy even though I know this is the only God I have.

Outline of the Answer
• Introduction
• Infection
• Detachment from the Desire to Sin
• No Discrepancy Between Detachment and Love
• The Danger of Pride
• Summary

You speak very well, from your own experience, about a core psychological problem in living a genuine Christian life. In fact, I have reproduced your long question almost in its entirety so that others may be able to recognize the basic problem about detachment from the world. To help you grasp the solution to this problem, consider a similar problem from medicine.


When an epidemic breaks out in a society, individuals must do what they can to protect themselves from contamination by infectious viral or bacterial agents. Because these agents are passed on through physical contact with infected sources, the best method of protection usually amounts to some form of isolation from individuals already infected.

Notice carefully, however, that protection from infection derives from separation from infectious agents, not from other persons in and of themselves. It should be clearly understood that other persons, even those infected, are not “bad.” But, since they carry infection, they must be avoided in order to avoid infection.

Detachment from the Desire to Sin

Now, to live a holy life, we must avoid contamination by anything unholy. Unlike medical infection, however, spiritual “infection” does not come specifically from physical contact with other persons. Nor does it come from physical contact with “unclean” things; in fact, Saint Peter had a vision (Acts 10: 9-16) in which this was made clear to him. Spiritual infection comes from contact with the desire to sin.

Please understand here that desire is not a bad thing. God created us so that we could desire Him through pure love. But, because of Original Sin, human desire has been corrupted; when we are outside a state of grace, our desire for God is obscured by our desire for sin. And so, to live a holy life we must detach ourselves from the desire to sin while simultaneously nurturing an ardent desire for the holy.

Click here to go to the web page about Motivation
where you can learn how to nurture a desire for the holy.

Detachment from the desire to sin, though, does not mean that you are necessarily obligated literally to avoid those persons caught up in sin
 [1]—and it certainly does not mean that you should hate or despise others. Instead, you should endeavor to avoid the sinful desires of other persons while also praying for their repentance and conversion out of love for them.

Now, the best way to avoid infection by the desire to sin is to avoid social media, popular entertainment (such as television—and the subversive commercial advertising that goes with it—movies, 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.

No Discrepancy Between Detachment and Love

Thus you can see that there is no discrepancy between detachment from the corrupt social world around us and love for others lost in the sins of the world.

To love others with divine love, endeavor to pray constantly for their conversion, and, in order to be able to pray constantly, endeavor to remain detached from all the desire for sin that is not conducive to holy prayer.

There’s nothing ruthless or cold-hearted about any of this.

The Danger of Pride

If any discrepancy does arise between detachment and love, it’s the result of pride. Pride is simply the narcissistic desire to stand apart from others so that you can think of yourself as being “special.” As you mention, pride can trick us into believing we are doing God’s will when really we are serving our own self-interests.

You can best protect yourself from the sin of pride by cultivating the opposite virtue: humility. To live in humility is to live always in confidence of God’s love, protection, and guidance and therefore to not be concerned when others insult you—or praise you. Secure in God’s love, you don’t have to base your identity on whether or not others acknowledge you, and so you don’t have to compete with them and beat them down to make yourself feel bigger.

Humility does not have anything to do with humiliation or self-defilement; we have an obligation to serve Christ effectively and joyfully in pure love. Therefore it is important that we never relinquish the noble responsibility of developing our talents to the fullest. Our self-development is a spiritual necessity, and it won’t become an act of selfishness if we seek it with proper humility.

Pride seeks only its own glory. Pride may accept the idea of serving God, intellectually, but it rejects the personal suffering of carrying that service deep into the heart. Therefore, pride does not know how to pray for others, and, though it might cause you to speak words of prayer, your heart will remain cold, hard, and aloof.


Therefore, you certainly can “yield to, receive, and reflect God’s love for the world through the selfless avenues of truth, gentleness, compassion, grace, sacrifice, and wisdom.” You do this by a humble detachment from the desire to sin while praying constantly for those caught up in the desire to sin. That’s love. It’s not a paradox, but it is often misunderstood by those who don’t want to do the hard work of praying constantly with the mind in the heart because, in not detaching themselves from their pride, they continue in their desire to sin—and thus they are self-deceived.


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1. Saint Paul, however, commanded Christians to avoid other Christians who departed from the true faith. He said this in the strongest language possible: “We command you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We command you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to avoid any brother who wanders from the straight path and does not follow the tradition you received from us (2 Thessalonians 3:6).


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Additional Resources


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.


More information


Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.

A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing.
Psychological defenses help to protect us from emotional injury, but if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull: hate.
So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you. You will go where you desire.

More information



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