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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I read your answers to some of the questions that people asked regarding following the secular news, and our dealings with others, and even what Jesus said to St. Faustina, as to how she would win more souls by praying and offering sacrifices than by missionary effort. I have a deep desire, especially once I am healed from the resistances I still struggle with, to help other souls come to Christ and believe in Him. . . . St. Paul mentions in one of his letters . . . how he was overjoyed that when he passed through Macedonia to preach, the people there had already heard the message since the local believers had been sharing their faith with everyone. . . . wasn’t it also the witness of the Holy Spirit, the love of the believers, who were all “of one heart and one soul”? . . . They all shared their bread and their belongings, it was really a close-knit community, and their goal was to grow in faith and purity, and spread it all around.

Sadly, today things seem to have changed a lot. When I was a Protestant we always talked about how we should try to emulate that first community and “be of one heart and soul”, in order to strengthen our witness. . . . But human beings seem to be so divided. I know we have to have the deep, personal relationship with Christ that Scripture and the Tradition keeps pointing us to; without that, all is vain. But how should we live with respect to our churches, our communities? As another person said, nobody today seems to be living like the Gospel says, so to have genuine Christian fellowship is a truly rare thing. And you responded, “There you have it, that’s the real Catholic Church today.”

It seems to me, though, that one of the main purposes of this kind of community is for the salvation of outsiders. And in our evangelistic witness, is it not important that we be able to speak with wisdom of some kind to outsiders? … but shouldn’t some of us know something about non-Christians? I have a few books in my home, that I have still not read, but I had a very specific reason for buying them. Some include the Communist Manifesto by Marx, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, and others by John M. Keynes, so on and so forth. These are books that in the last few hundred years, have shaped the world we live in. I am a staunch anti-Communist; I know about the tens, possibly hundreds, of millions who have died under communist regimes in the twentieth century, and especially how one of Marxism’s top goals is the eradication of religion. I know communism is fundamentally based in anger and revenge and is a direct contradiction to the tenth commandment. But if I should have dealings with a non-believer, how am I to tell him that I am against communism and make a credible argument if technically, I don’t even know what communism is? How can I win over my enemy’s heart if I don’t know who he is? . . . I know this doesn’t mean every Christian should read Marx or Freud, but God calls each of us in different ways . . . And I know especially in today’s world, understanding is what will win someone’s heart, not just spitting at them that communism (or any anti-Christian philosophy) is evil; how often are Christians stereotyped like this in the media, as being ignorant buffoons who still think the earth is flat.

The same goes for following the news, events in the world . . . can this be a virtuous reason for watching the news? How I will win my unbelieving neighbour over to the faith if I fit the mould of the stereotyped Christian, who doesn’t know anything about the outside world, who just responds with a naïve smile, “I don’t know, I believe in Jesus, that’s all.”

How will I defend the faith in classes here at university, when it is attacked? We need to be educated, even St. Josemaría Escrivá talked about this—provided that your cultural education is a means and not an end, that love is the end and nothing else.

All this to say, it seems to me there is a certain value to secular education and even having some idea as to what is going on in the world today!

So, should we be involved in politics in some way then? Or should we opt-out entirely? . . . And I do agree we have gone too far to the other extreme, it’s quite ridiculous how much protesting there is going on. But for the salvation of others, should we not have some sense of the happenings in the outside world, and the history of the world, so that we will know how to dialogue with them, so that people won’t think of Christians as ignorant and stupid?

Outline of the Answer
• Introduction
• Community
• Education
• Current Events
• Politics

 
Your question, even with my considerable editing, is still quite long; within it I find four major topics: the nature of real Christian community; the need for Christians to have a good education; the need for Christians to be aware of current events; and the place, if any, for politics in Christian life.

 
Community

I agree that it can be very tempting to look back nostalgically at early Christian communities. Yet the truth isn’t what we might think it to be. Psychologically, there is something fundamental about Christianity that makes any Christian community problematic and ultimately leads to division. As odd as it may seem, that “something” is love.

Ancient Jewish communities were held together socially by legalism, even if it often tended to hypocrisy. Even smaller Jewish communities, such as the Essenes, for example, who existed within the larger Jewish social structure, maintained their identity for several hundred years through their own particular variety of legalism.

Saint Paul, however, made it clear from the beginning that freedom from the law distinguished Christianity from Judaism. Christianity is based in a mystical love for Christ, not in the mere adherence to the Law. Christianity transcends legalism with love—but, as I said, that is where the problems start.

Real love is a matter of sacrifice—an act of the will—but all too often it becomes corrupted by those who believe that love is a feeling. Instead of remaining unified by the personal sacrifice of mystical love (and the enormous spiritual battle that this entails), Christian communities can easily become divided by individuals who challenge tradition by following their own feelings about theology and all the while telling themselves that they are acting from love.

Saint Paul had to contend with these factions and divisions as a way of Christian life; in fact, he had to direct much of his writing to resolving community disputes. Moreover, as time passed, as converts aged, and as their close-knit communities loosened in later generations, full-blown heresies, such as Arianism, developed. All that division derived from individuals saying, “Well, I’m not sure about such-and-such. That’s not the way it feels to me.” So they started arguing about what “love” felt like to them, rather than clinging to the deep tradition of mystical love.

And that’s where we are today. We—even bishops, priests, and deacons—snub Tradition, disregard the rubrics, and defy Church law because we feel that things should be done our way. We are obedient all right, but only to our own pride! It’s ironic—and sad—but Christianity is torn apart by divisions and arguments about love.

  

If you started a Christian community today based in real love it would begin to disintegrate after the second generation—if not before. Only a return to legalism in some way could save it. Even Roman Catholic religious orders today are held together more by their laws than by real love. (Sad to say, because of my clinical work I have heard some shocking and heart-breaking stories about the lack of love among religious.)

  

Now, in the midst of all this division, it often happens that various individuals seek to return to real community. In fact, such persons are the hope for the Church in the coming tribulations. But the community they seek must not be an idealized imagination about times past; it must be a community of truth: the truth of mystical love, not humanistic sentimentality.

Psychologically, then, only if you understand the truth about community can you then comprehend how issues such as education, familiarity with current events, and politics have a place—or not—in a genuine Christian life.

 
Education

God gave each of us unique talents, and it is the spiritual task of each of us to develop those talents. For everyone, some basic education is a necessity, and for many persons higher education may be necessary.

  

I studied science and music in high school; in college I began as a math and physics major, then I switched to English literature along with sociology and art. My first master’s degree came from a Protestant seminary where I learned about Protestantism—and Biblical scholarship—from the inside out. My second master’s degree was in education and counseling; my third master’s degree and my Ph.D. were in clinical psychology. So it should be clear that I value education.

  

As you say, your talents may require you to study political science and sociology; other persons may study law or medicine or philosophy or whatever. All that matters is that Christians fulfill their talents so that those talents can be put to good use in God’s service, in a true community of mystical love.

But note carefully: if education serves your pride and the ways of the flesh, rather than the ways of the spirit, then you will reap only death.

 
Current Events

I agree that every Christian should have some sense of what is happening currently in the world. The psychological question, though, is, “How?”

Keep in mind that hardly anyone in today’s world, with its massive divisions and overwhelming service of pride and flesh, has any access to “news.” “News” is an illusion. Today we have only propaganda.

Now, it’s true in general that, in regard to information, we see only what others want us to see. Even my website has a bias. Still, I strive to write from the place of surrender to truth and love rather than from the place of personal pride. But the news media know nothing of real love; they know only what they personally “love” and want to have noticed and supported in society. So whatever you read or see in the “news” is nothing but propaganda.

Dante did not live to see the full development of political propoganda, commercial advertisement, and sensational journalism, but he has prepared a place for them.

—Dorothy Sayers
( from her commentary on The Flatterers, Canto XVIII
in her translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy I: Hell )

Therefore, if you take the “news” seriously, you will be self-deceived and infected with lies and illusions.

What, then, can you do? Well, I keep informed by visiting a conservative national website (Fox News) and reading only the headlines. I do not waste my time getting caught up in reading the stories behind the headlines. All that matters is that I get a glimpse of what is happening in the world. The why doesn’t matter because I already know the why—the psychological brokenness that drives us all into sin.

 
Politics

So, what do we do with our knowledge of “what is happening”?

Well, some persons try to meddle with it, arguing and debating with other meddlers, hoping to change the behaviors of others in the “community” at large. But in doing this they misperceive community as human fellowship. Arguing about how to make the world a better place and solve its problems—all the while ignoring the sin that underlies all problems—is a fraud. They know politics, but they know nothing of real community.

Far better, then, to stop trying to change the behavior of others and instead focus on joining the real community of love. There you can learn to pray constantly and be cleansed and polished spiritually so that real love will reflect off you for the illumination of others. Noticing the love that motivates you, others might come to desire it, cast off their propaganda, and want to join your community.

  

Let the wicked continue in their wicked ways, the depraved in their depravity! The virtuous must live on in their virtue and the holy ones in their holiness!
    “Remember, I am coming soon! I bring with me the reward that will be given to each man as his conduct deserves. . . . Happy are they who wash their robes so as to have free access to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates! Outside are the dogs and sorcerers, the fornicators and murderers, the idol-worshipers and all who love falsehood”

  

—Revelation 22:11–15

Read more about politics
in a Christian life

 

Who wrote this web page?

 

Healing
Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition


by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.


A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites is now available at your fingertips in book form with a comprehensive index.
 
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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